Related Research Areas
Water & Energy Cycles

This NASA New Investigator Program proposal's overall objective is to improve our ability to estimate snow water equivalent (SWE) using airborne and spaceborne microwave radar. Funded by a 3 year NASA Energy and Water-cycle Sponsored (NEWS) research grant which ended August 2009, the PI for this proposal developed a large database of microwave radar measurements covering a wide range of sensor parameters and snow conditions. This existing database will be accurately calibrated and used in this proposed work to improve estimates of SWE from microwave radar. Over a billion people worldwide depend on snow-melt for water supply. Estimating the snow water equivalent (SWE)- the amount of fresh water that a given area of snow represents - is required for water resource management, hydro-power and flood forecasting. Increases in temperature and precipitation will significantly alter the distribution of snow, greatly complicating prediction of this already poorly understood but important water resource. Estimating SWE using remote sensing techniques remains problematic, as manual ground-truth measurements in typically highly variable snow conditions are time-consuming. Microwave remote sensing has great potential for giving scientists and practitioners information about SWE at a global scale throughout the year. Microwaves penetrate clouds, providing a significant advantage over optical techniques. This project will leverage large databases collected during the past 3 years as part of the NASA CLPX-II campaign and measurements made throughout the season at a high levation study site in Colorado. Databases were collected using a ground-based microwave radar, covering a wide range of sensor parameters and in a wide range of well-characterized snowpack conditions, spanning the spatial and temporal variability of snow commonly observed in both mountainous and Arctic environments. A previous 3 year NASA Energy and Water-cycle Sponsored (NEWS) research project funded this PI for 3 yrs of data collection; this New Investigator Proposal will provide funding to 1) test microwave radar retrieval algorithms for SWE over a wide range of both sensor and snowpack parameters using these recently collected large existing ground-based radar databases, 2) compare ground-based radar measurements to coincident data collected from airborne sensors (POLSCAT, LiDAR) during CLPX-II to study the effect of sub-pixel snow heterogeneity and compare SWE estimates from the 3 independent sensors. This project is low risk and offers a large benefit at low cost as the data have already been collected. In addition, funding is requested to maintain a continuous radar throughout the next 3 winters at a well-instrumented site. This project will fund 1 Ph.D. student and 2 undergraduates in collaboration with NASA Idaho Space Grant, and will give a young investigator an opportunity to expand his experience in ground-based radar to data from airborne platforms and radar retrieval algorithms. In collaboration with the Discovery Center of Idaho, several "Science Saturday" field trips will expose underrepresented 4th-8th grade students to remote sensing of snow, and a hands-on exhibit will be developed to illustrate NASA's role in satellite measurements of the snowpack and the importance of the seasonal snowpack to water supply.

Project PI: Hans-Peter Marshall/Boise State University

Center for Geophysical Investigation of the Shallow Subsurface Boise State University 1910 University Drive, MG206E Boise, ID 83725-1536

Phone: (208) 426-1416

Fax: (208) 426-3888



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Started: Sep 29, 2010

Last Activity: Jan 05, 2011


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