NASA project could improve flood and drough forecasts

KUSA - We've seen plenty of snow across Colorado this winter.

It's helping NASA with a new project that just got started in our state.

NASA is using snow to set up sensors and test out new ways to measure the snowpack.

More than 100 scientists from across the world are working on this snow satellite mission called SnowEx.

9NEWS told you about it when it launched in February.

RELATED: NASA begins snow research project in Colorado

The main focus of this project: water. We all need it to survive.

"About one out of every six people on planet Earth depend on water from snow to get their water, for drinking, for agriculture and so forth so it's really vital," said Edward Kim, one of the project scientists.

That's why NASA is testing a combination of sensors from the ground, and air, to see how they can best collect snow-water measurements from space.

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"We had aircraft flying for three weeks and about 100 people on the ground collecting what we call ground truth," said Kim.

NASA chose to conduct this campaign over the Grand Mesa, because of its diverse terrain.

Two teams of "data wranglers" have been taking measurements from high in the sky - to shuffling through the snow on skis.

"The different instruments on the aircraft were used to make different kinds of measurements, using different techniques," he added. "The folks on the ground were collecting actual measurements of what - you know how much snow is really there for example."

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While satellites show snow cover, they don't adequately show the amount of water in the snowpack.

Something that would dramatically improve weather forecasts.

"Knowing how much water you’re going to be able to capture, knowing when it's going to melt and come down out of the snowpack and end up in your rivers or your reservoirs is a key part of what we're - what NASA is trying to do," Kim said.

Trying to get one step closer in identifying how much water is out there, and how it will impact the world, all from the farthest reaches of space.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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