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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #332259

Research Project: Understanding Snow and Hydrologic Processes in Mountainous Terrain with a Changing Climate

Location: Watershed Management Research

Title: The Airborne Snow Observatory: fusion of scanning lidar, imaging spectrometer, and physically-based modeling for mapping snow water equivalent and snow albedo

Author
item Painter, Tom - NATIONAL AERONAUTICS SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA) - JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
item Bormann, Kathryn - NATIONAL AERONAUTICS SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA) - JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
item Deems, Jeff - NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
item Marks, Danny - Danny
item Mckenzie Skiles, S - NATIONAL AERONAUTICS SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA) - JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
item Mcgurk, Bruce - CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES

Submitted to: Remote Sensing of Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/24/2016
Publication Date: 6/30/2016
Citation: Painter, T., Bormann, K., Deems, J., Marks, D.G., Mckenzie Skiles, S., Mcgurk, B. 2016. The Airborne Snow Observatory: fusion of scanning lidar, imaging spectrometer, and physically-based modeling for mapping snow water equivalent and snow albedo. Remote Sensing of Environment. 184:139-152.

Interpretive Summary: This paper describes the NASA-JPL Airborne Snow Observatory program of weekly overflights of several mountain basins with LiDAR and a scanning spectrometer. The program provides weekly updates of snow depth and albedo that are integrated into an ARS snow model (iSnobal) and a hydrology model (PRMS) to provide water mangers critical information on the volume of water stored in the snow cover, the delivery of liquid water to the soil and stream, and reservoir inflows during the extreme California drought of 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Technical Abstract: Snow cover and its melt dominate regional climate and water resources in many of the world’s mountainous regions. Snowmelt timing and magnitude in mountains tend to be controlled by absorption of solar radiation and snow water equivalent, respectively, and yet both of these are very poorly known even in the best-instrumented mountain regions of the globe. Here we present the Airborne Snow Observatory, a coupled imaging spectrometer and scanning lidar for the measurement of snow spectral albedo/broadband albedo and snow depth/snow water equivalent. Snow density is simulated over the domain to convert snow depth to snow water equivalent (SWE). The result presented in this paper is the first operational application of remotely sensed snow albedo and depth to quantify the volume of water stored in the seasonal snow cover. The weekly values of SWE volume provided by the ASO program represent a critical increase in the information available to resource managers in mountain regions.