The Uphill Road to Measuring Snow

One-sixth of the world’s population relies on melted snow for their freshwater, which means good estimates of snow are critical for making realistic predictions of a region’s water supply.

But measuring snow, especially the amount of water locked within that snow, challenges researchers across the globe. Why? The two means of estimating snow totals—weather modeling and satellite remote sensing—can vary as much as 30 percent.

Scientists like hydrologist Edward Kim of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center continue to seek ways to reconcile the gap between measurement results. Kim and colleagues Michael Durand (Byrd Polar Research Center), Noah Molotch (Univ. of Colorado), and Steve Margulis (UCLA) are wrapping up a short field campaign to measure snow at the Storm Peak Laboratory, perched atop Colorado’s famed mountain at Steamboat Springs.

Their aim is to test and improve the accuracy of satellite-based snow measurements. In the midst of the expedition, they’ve also snapped some breathtaking photos, such as this sun pillar to the right. Sun pillars are typically caused by sunlight reflecting off the surfaces of falling ice crystals associated with certain cloud types.

This post was adapted from NASA’s Earth Observatory. For more updates on the expedition, please visit the Notes From the Field blog.

–Adam Voiland, NASA’s Earth Science News Team

5 thoughts on “The Uphill Road to Measuring Snow”

  1. Wow and to think every time we get a really big snow storm all the people that moan and complain and I have to admit that I'm defiantly one of them.

    After the new year comes around I don't want to see anymore of the white stuff. Anyway what a very interesting post, I'll look at those snow storms a little different from now on… that is until I have to shovel 🙂

  2. I never realized how many people world wide relied on snow run off for there water supply a world map of areas that rely on run off would be very interesting

  3. Thanks for the breathtaking photo of sun pillars. Nature just has the ability to create beautiful things…just like minerals and .

  4. Measuring snow, especially the amount of water locked within that snow, challenges a lot of researches. Would it be ok to re-post this on my website.

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