Lab Fellow Ben Roberts-Pierel highlights one of his favorite data exploration tools
In the snow hydrology world, as with many fields, there are limited in situ stations to monitor snowpack in many of the world’s mountain regions. Water content in snow is measured by snow water equivalent (SWE), a product of snow density and depth. However, with a lack of in situ data and extreme heterogeneity in mountain regions, there are many times a paucity of resources for forcing or validating models to predict SWE and forecast runoff. One way that this deficit is being addressed is through citizen science.
The use of citizen science data has long occupied a hazy and at times controversial area in scientific research, but with projects like the Globe Observer Program and others, NASA has shown they are fully behind the idea. One group that is working on addressing this issue is Community Snow Observations, a group of snow hydrologists and researchers, funded by NASA’s Citizen Science for Earth Systems project. They have teamed up with outdoor professionals, winter recreators and a host of other organizations interested in understanding cryospheric change and water availability to gather snow depth data from across the Northern Hemisphere. Snow depth is a crucial yet easily measured data point, particularly given that many people traveling in the mountains are already carrying a simple depth gauge in the form of an avalanche probe. Researchers, including colleagues here at Oregon State, are then using these data in existing models. The inclusion of these additional depth data has resulted in marked improvements to their outputs.