NASA will receive help from the Navy for an interesting new project. Called SnowEx, it will be part of a larger program. Its primary role? To analyze the Colorado snowpack water levels.
Measuring the snowpack is not a new practice. The process started being used back in the 1930s. And it was influenced by the snow’s big role in the human life. The snowpack is important as, amongst others, it is a source of water. According to reports, snow is considered the main water source for some 20 percent of the population.
In the Western United States, this percent is even higher. Snow is estimated to be a water supply for about 80 percent of the population. As such, scientists took to measuring the water content in a snowpack.
Until now, such data was gathered through land-based observations. These offered precious information for example, on the probable water supply and stream flow.
But land methods lack the details offered by an aerial one. This is where NASA stepped in. The space agency set up and is the leader of SnowEx. This is a new snowpack analysis project. And it is being carried out with help from other researchers. And also from the U.S. Navy.
Approximately 100 technicians and scientists are already involved in the project. And the Navy is contributed as it offered one of its planes. This is a stripped down Lockheed P-3 Orion, offered on loan.
SnowEx is also using four other airplanes. This work in a direct collaboration. Air and land teams both gather data on the same areas. Later on, this data is compared and further analyzed.
The SnowEx planes are equipped with ten different instruments. These are used in order to detect the water levels of the snowpack bellow them. Currently, the project is flying over the Western Colorado mountains. Or more exactly, over its Rocky Mountains.
Land teams are also measuring the water levels of the same areas. These two sets of data will then be put together and compared. This will help NASA accomplish its bigger goal.
The space agency is planning on developing a snowpack measuring satellite. This should be able to capture, analyze, and offer real-time information about the snow.
As such SnowEx is working on developing the needed technology. Deploying a satellite would not be so hard. However, this must be equipped with the appropriate instruments. Ones capable of offering real-time, and very importantly, accurate data.
For the moment, this system is still somewhat lacking. This is where the aerial surveys come in. They will help establish the exact data set which must be used. And they will do so with help from its land counterparts.
The already developed and accurate land tests should offer the staple results. Aerial data will be compared with this data set. And the sensors and system will be adjusted in order to reach their level and accuracy.
As such, SnowEx should find the right combination of parameters and instruments. These will have to be able to detect the snow’s water content. And to do so whilst in the outer space, from a satellite.
The SnowEx project was initiated this month. According to reports, it is expected to roll out over the next following years. A period of at least 5 years has already been advanced. Still, additional details would be needed in this area.
As yet, it is unclear if SnowEx will be solely carried out in Colorado. Or if, perhaps, it will be moved to other parts of the United States or the world.
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