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Monitoring Earth’s Hydrosphere: Integrating Remote Sensing, Modeling, and Verification Boise State University/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Science Mission Directorate

Rain or Snow? Researchers at Boise State seek to improve predictions of mountain water storage in a warming world. Recent and ongoing drought throughout the world and in the western US have underscored the importance of monitoring and predicting regional water storage, particularly in light of the challenged posed by climate change. In mountainous regions throughout the world climate change is expected to increase the fraction of precipitation arriving as rainfall rather than snow, relative to historic conditions. Mountain snowpacks serve as an important natural reservoir, storing winter precipitation for use in the warmer, often drier, summer months. In testbed watersheds in Idaho, researchers at Boise State University are using advanced tools to simulate atmospheric conditions in these complex, mountain landscapes. They are seeking to address questions like to what degree do weather and climate models have to resolve and represent the spatial heterogeneity in these landscapes to capture the transition between rain and snow? And how can remote sensing observations of snow cover or soil moisture be used to correct for errors in model predictions? Preliminary results show that finer resolution in the atmospheric models leads to demonstrable improvement in the accuracy of precipitation phase. This is seen in the simulated soil moisture. Coarser resolution simulations deliver precipitation to the watershed as rain, leading to an immediate increase in soil moisture. Finer resolution simulations, on the other hand, deliver the precipitation as snow, which (correctly) melts several days later producing a delayed response in soil moisture. The research project is aimed at improving the conjunctive use of models and remote sensing data, from satellites like the recently launched SMAP and the forthcoming ICESAT-2, to make better predictions about the dynamics of water storage in these mountainous regions.

Dr. Alejandro N. Flores, Science PI, Boise State University

Dr. Gail Skofronick-Jackson, NASA Technical Monitor, Goddard Space Flight Center

www.nasa.gov/epscor/stimuli

NASA EPSCoR Stimuli 2014-15

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EPSCoR Stimuli 2014-15  

NASA Office of Education’s Aerospace Research & Career Development (ARCD) is pleased to release NASA EPSCoR Stimuli, a collection of univers...

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