As the world continues to warm from human-caused climate change, rain patterns and the timing of the melting snowpack is also changing – impacting the amount of water available and making resources harder to manage.
To forecast future water levels and assist water managers, scientists at NASA and the company Airborne Snow Observatories (ASO) are mapping the snowpack to predict how much water will eventually flow into reservoirs. To gain more precise measurements, ASO flies’ planes with special sensors over snow-covered areas. According to NASA, “the ASO team combines measurements from lasers and spectrometers on planes with Earth observations from NASA satellites to produce up-to-date forecasts and maps of the amount of water held in the snowpack.” This combination of data allows water managers to know earlier the amount of water coming from snowpack throughout the spring and summer.
NASA’s Western Water Applications Office (WWAO) uses this data to help inform its Water Portal. The Water Portal “provides interactive catalogs of water data needs and NASA water-related capabilities, as part of [its] mission to improve how water is managed in the arid western U.S.” Additionally, WWAO helped develop the OpenET tool, which shows levels of water evaporation into the atmosphere in the American west. Read more at NASA and find out more about NASA’s Water Resources Program here.