Measuring snow in the mountains is nothing new, considering snow is a vital source of water for more than a billion people around the globe. It is used for consumption, energy production, irrigation and acts as a reservoir during the summer months. However, scientist are aware of the changing climate and the ever growing demand of fresh water that is exceeding the supply. This has led them to discover a more accurate way to predict how much water may be available for the residents living below.
Using a small aircraft, researchers have found a way to measure snow from thousands of feet in the air using a sensor that gauges snow depth and the amount of light it reflects. This technology allows them to obtain the most accurate data currently available involving the measurements of water held within the mountains.
Furthermore, the scientists can pass this data to water mangers that will oversee how much water they will use to fill aquifers,what crops farmers can plant and allow them inform cities about how much water will be available to their people.
Other than discovering a way to accurately measure snow, they have also found that dust particles created by motor vehicles, resource extraction and road building have greatly effected the Rocky Mountains over the last two centuries. It is now known that the pollution derived from these sources has a major impact on the timing of snowmelt.
Water rationing and pollution are just the beginning of problems involving the current global water crisis. Today, countries all over the world are fighting one another over rights to rivers that see declining snowmelts. Thomas Painter, one of NASA's researchers states: "If we can put together the remote sensing infrastructure that tells us what is going on with snow melt in the Western U.S., we can migrate the technology around the globe."
With NASA paving the way for water innovation, other water monitoring technologies are likely to emerge, all in which could save the world in more ways than one.