Big Data Animation of Sierra Nevada Snowpack Measurements, 2015-2017 (credit: ASO/JPL)
California's intense drought has officially been declared over now. To illustrate the change in three years the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has created a data visualization using satellite meaurements of winter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, 2015-2017. The famous space and science lab just announced their findings that:
"the snowpack in the Tuolumne River Basin, a major source of water for San Francisco and California's agricultural Central Valley, is currently larger than the four previous years of snowpack combined. Our Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) measured the basin's snowpack on April 1st, a critical date for annual snow measurements, at 1.2 million acre-feet. That is enough snow to fill Pasadena's Rose Bowl nearly 1,600 times."
The Lab's airplane is the only science observatory that gathers information on snow depth, snow water equivalent (SWQ), and how much sunlight is reflected off snowpack (albedo) covering an entire watershed. The plane carries measuring instruments including a landscape-scanning LiDAR and an imaging spectrometer to gather the data.
Despite the importance of knowing volume and timing of seasonal runoff, albedo, and water equivalent, this data is are largely lacking in the US and elsewhere. The ASO now generates the knowledge on these snow properties from frozen zones (cryosphere) and provides detailed inputs for California water management.
With a history of mega-droughts, the Golden State needs every scientific, managerial, and conservation tool availble to help the State maintain its environmental resources.