There is absolutely nothing more precious on Earth than water. Not diamonds and certainly not Uranium! All life on our planet needs water to survive and while just a small 3 percent of the water on Earth is available as freshwater, there is nearly 70 percent of this exact freshwater that isn’t easily accessible because it is locked in the form of ice, permanent snow cover or glaciers.
So much so that year-round and seasonal snowpacks are an integral component of the water cycle on Earth. This is what keeps the freshwater reserves full and to understand this further, NASA has recently started an initiative that will dive deep into the snow covers of the planet and understand the relationship between snow and liquid freshwater.
To do this, NASA launched its SnowEx program, which will be first of its kind in that it will span across several years and take place in the air mostly. Methods to analyses and measure volume or snow depth are being refined and through testing techniques, equipment and ideas, NASA aims at bettering these advancements further with SnowEx. The ultimate objective is to understand how snow cover fluctuations can affect water accessibility the world over.
The two sites selected for this study are the Senator Beck Basin and Grand Mesa in Colorado. Usually snowpack contains about 40 to 90 percent air with the rest being water, understanding them further is key in proper estimations.
Up until now, all snowpack measurements have taken place from up above in space. This is the way it has been for decades now. However, the problem with space measurements is that they really aren’t accurate in several landscapes. Some modern studies show that the measurements from space can at times be as inaccurate as 50 percent off the actual mark.
Then there are other surveys that depend on remote-scanning advancements but they too provide an incomplete picture. Microwave frequencies used for this purpose tends to disregard snow when it melts partially. As for LIDAR, it cannot penetrate through clouds thus isn’t really the best technology to measure snowstorm accumulations.