Measuring the Snowpack From the Sky
Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times
A hydrologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, Dr. Painter leads the Airborne Snow Observatory, a mapping project in the Sierra Nevada. Using an instrument-bearing airplane, his team has been generating the most detailed understanding of the amount of snow blanketing the Sierra Nevada.
This morning, we published a collection of interactive maps and photos based on the group’s work that illustrate the astonishing amount of snow that has accumulated in the mountains this year.
The scientists fly over the Sierra range in a specially equipped turboprop plane — monthly in winter, and weekly in spring — where they collect snowpack data using an imaging spectrometer and a laser system known as lidar.
Speaking by phone from Mammoth Lakes, the project’s base of operations, Dr. Painter brimmed with excitement about the work. He talked about the long hours — up to 80 a week — the complexity of crunching terabytes of data, and the pressure of getting crucial information to water managers swiftly enough that it remains useful.
“But yeah,” he said. “It’s so much fun.”
The rest of the team, about 15 people, is every bit as dedicated as he is, he added — “We’re all threatening to get the tattoo, the A.S.O. tattoo, at some point.”
Dig into the project’s work — maps, photos and more — here.
Do check out that last link. Great info and awesome pictures...
Photo by Jim Wilson/The New York Times