Snow Depth to Get The NASA Treatment
NASA Study Seeks to Work Out More Accurately How Much Snow There Is on Earth
NASA is reported to be spear-heading a multi-year, multi-agency effort to try to ascertain exactly how much snow there is in the world.
The US space agency’s SnowEx project has initially focussed on two research areas in Colorado and California, trying to accurately measure how much snow cover there is at any one time and, essentially, how much water content that snow holds.
It is known that at its peak each winter snow covers around 31% of the earth’s land surface, but accurately measuring volume has proved much more problematic, especially as around half the snow covered area is ‘hidden’ by tree cover.
The SnowEx answer is to use a number of different measuring systems, including detecting radiation in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, from the visible to the microwave, to provide a solution.
Accurate water-content-of-snow data is seen as a ‘Holy Grail’ of global data collection due to the value of the water for agriculture around the world and also to record a key factor in climate change with more extensive snow cover seen as likely to slow global warming with heat reflected, whilst a smaller area with snow cover means more heat absorption.
NASA’s aim is to study the effectiveness of the different measurement techniques being tested at the two research sites to design a future space mission which should accurately measure current snow cover and its water content in real time worldwide for the first time.
Patrick Thorne, also known as the Snow Hunter, is an industry expert in all technical developments in snow sports. In addition to his work Patrick is also father and knows the importance and fun of kids on snow. www.thesnowhunter.com