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NASA Shows Current Sierra Snowpack Bigger Than Last Four Years Combined
Science & Technology

NASA Shows Current Sierra Snowpack Bigger Than Last Four Years Combined

Snow water equal– the water content material of snow — within the Tuolumne River Basin in 2015 and 2017. Lighter blue signifies much less snow, deeper blue is extra snow (see shade bar at left). The 2017 snow water equal was 21 occasions larger than 2015, which was the bottom snowpack on document.

A significant supply of water for San Francisco and California’s Central Valley is the Tuolumne River Basin in California’s Sierra Nevada. New information from NASA present that the snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada is at present bigger than the 4 earlier years of snowpack mixed.

NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) measured the Tuolumne Basin snowpack on April 1, a important annual measurement of snow for states and their inhabitants, at 1.2 million acre-feet (1.5 cubic kilometers). That’s sufficient snow to fill the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, almost 1,600 occasions.

The Airborne Snow Observatory is the one program that measures snow depth, snow water equal (the water contained in snow), and the way a lot daylight snow displays over a whole basin, utilizing two scientific devices (a scanning lidar and an imaging spectrometer) on a King Air plane. All different snow-monitoring applications pattern only some places on the bottom or give a median over a broad space. The Airborne Snow Observatory flies in California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho, and is flying a analysis model within the Swiss Alps.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys of California’s Division of Water Sources, stated, “In such an enormous snow season, the info obtainable from ASO will present important steering for water managers as we enter into the height soften season later this spring.”

Principal Investigator Tom Painter of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, defined, “Earlier than ASO, water managers had intense stress worrying about how a lot potential runoff was saved within the mountain snowpack, with little historic details about snowpack years as massive as this to information reservoir administration and allocation selections. With ASO, we can be exactly quantifying this quantity and the way it adjustments by means of the spring.” Earlier than 2013, when the ASO program started, errors in forecasting the overall Sierra Nevada snowmelt-season runoff have been incessantly larger than 20 p.c and infrequently larger than 40 p.c. Now, errors in forecasting runoff from basins that ASO displays have dropped to lower than 2 p.c.

The 2017 California snowpack is near the biggest on the document, which consists of a long time’ value of snow measurements made at floor degree. ASO mapping confirmed that Tuolumne Basin’s snowpack is twice the amount of final 12 months’s snowpack and 21 occasions bigger than the snowpack of 2015, the bottom on document. The mixed April 1 snow water equal of 2013 by means of 2016 — years when California was in an intense drought — added as much as solely 92 p.c of this 12 months’s April 1 measurement. In a lot of the Central Sierra, snow lies 25 toes deep (8 meters). In some excessive mountain basins, it’s deeper than 80 toes (24 meters). And since April 1, it has continued to snow.

This 12 months, this system started mapping the San Joaquin River Basin in California’s Central Valley, with funding from the Friant Water Authority in Friant, California, and NASA’s Western Water Purposes Workplace. In that basin, this 12 months’s April 1 snow water equal was about 2.9 million acre-feet (3.6 cubic kilometers). Jeff Payne, water assets director for Friant, stated, “This can be a important path to raised water administration for the San Joaquin River and Friant Dam, notably in a 12 months like this one, the place annual influx from snowmelt is likely to be 10 occasions the working capability of our reservoir. Lots of the snow in our basin accumulates in protected wilderness areas the place typical monitoring is restricted or prohibited. ASO is main us to earlier and higher water administration selections.”

With the addition of the San Joaquin Basin, the Airborne Snow Observatory now maps the snowpack of your complete Central Sierra Nevada vary from Kings River within the south to the Tuolumne River within the north, a milestone in a deliberate growth of this system to cowl your complete Sierra Nevada and different key areas within the West.

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