How much snow is out there?

Team Finland: Juha Lemmetyinen and Ioanna Merkouriadi (Photo by Hans Lievens, Ghent University)

NASA’s SnowEx2020 campaign took place in Grand Mesa, the largest flat-topped mountain in the world, located in western Colorado, in the United States. Aim of the campaign was to understand how much water is contained by each winter’s snowfall.

Snow is a vital source of water for drinking, agriculture, and electrical power in the northern hemisphere. Water resource managers and hydrologists need to know where snow has fallen, how much there is and how its properties change after it is deposited and when it melts. Measuring snow water equivalent, or SWE, tells them how much water is contained within the snowpack.

SnowEx2020 combined airborne and ground measurements, in order to collect data needed to test and validate SWE retrievals from active and passive microwave sensors. Ground measurements consisted of snow depth, surface temperature spatial variability and vertical profiles of snow stratigraphy and microstructure. Airborne measurements involved 6 planes that carried numerous sensors such as L-band InSAR, UAVSAR, active and passive microwaves (SWESARR), Thermal IR, LiDar, Gamma etc.

The campaign was successful! All planes have flown and a great number of ground measurements has been collected. FMI-SPACE participated and contributed to the campaign, in the framework of the closely related Academy of Finland project (ASTRA-snow), main objective of which is to develop the detection of SWE from space.

More information

Research Scientist Ioanna Merkouriadi, Finnish Meteorological Institute,

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