NASA Satellite Validation Distributed Snowfall Measurement Network

Affiliation(s) PI Project period Funded by
DAS McCubbin, Ian B. 02/20/2013 - 12/06/2013 UCCSN Nevada Space Grant Consortium

Project Description

This Desert Research Institute (DRI) proposed project will build research infrastructure in the form of a distributed snowfall measurement network. The opportunities presented by this network will provide current and future validation to NASA satellite retrievals of snow-covered area in alpine regions of the Western US. Innovative applications of space-based remotely sensed snow data are urgently needed, as recent climate analyses have shown widespread declines in the winter snowpack of mountain ecosystems in the Western US associated with positive temperature anomalies. Yet, as snow depth is a spatially highly variable due to a variety of factors (wind loading, vegetation cover, rocks, topography, etc.), it is critical to measure snow depth not at one ground location but over a large spatial domain with multiple sensors to accurately represents snow depth for a particular area. The proposed work will establish and maintain multiple new instrument cluster sites across the US Forest Service operating permit of the DRI-Storm Peak Laboratory, and the goal is to setup five instrument cluster sites across the permitted area. The NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra and Aqua Satellites snow covered products will be validated first using data from the test bed proposed here and secondly using data from the USDA SNOTEL network that is distributed across the Western United States, including Nevada. Finally, snow surveys currently being conducted by the DRI Cloud Seeding Program field team will be incorporated into this project by providing validation of SNOTEL data, and scaling up to validate MODIS snow covered products. Thus with the instrument test bed, we will have a well-measured area of snow depth and snow water equivalent that is easily identifiable for validating NASA MODIS satellite snow cover data products. This method will then be expanded to a larger region using the SNOTEL network. A framework will be created for DRI through this proposed work for assessing the accuracy and validation of NASA satellite snow products by using coarse and high spatial resolution ground based snowfall measurements. This proposed project is in collaboration with a current research of the DRI Cloud Seeding Program, and will build potential for continued projects with the incoming DRI Cloud Seeding Director. A reliable snow depth and snow water equivalent measurement network of instrument cluster will be established at DRI - Storm Peak Laboratory, and this will allow for DRI to propose future projects to NASA for validating satellites and airborne missions.