A Citizen Science Campaign to Validate Snow Remote Sensing Products

Trail made through snow by someone walking.

Image credit: Community Snow Observation

Anthony Arendt, University of Washington, Seattle

Snow in alpine regions is a life-sustaining part of the water cycle. Both glaciers and snowpack form natural reservoirs that gradually release water during the drier summer months, providing drinking water and ecosystem services (the varied benefits that organisms gain from the natural environment and from properly-functioning ecosystems). Changes to the snowpack can change the chemical and physical properties of streams impacting natural habitats.

Man measuring side of snow bank in the mountains.

Image credit: Community Snow Observations

Community Snow Observations (CSO) is a group of scientists who seek a better understanding of snow in mountainous regions. The project scientists train citizen scientists, including backcountry professionals and recreationists, to help gather snow observations. The volunteers collect snow-depth data using snow probes and will take photographs of snow crystals using their smartphones. The participants then enter their data into MountainHub, a smartphone application.

The snowpack data gathered by citizen scientists is being used to better interpret satellite and airborne snow measurements collected by NASA and other agencies. CSO is also using these datasets to improve water runoff models. Predicting and understanding variability in water runoff will help policy makers manage snow avalanche hazards, water resources, ecology, tourism, and the impacts of a changing climate in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Visit the Community Snow Observations site for more information.

Read more about NASA's Citizen Science for Earth Systems Program (CSESP).

Last Updated: Jun 11, 2019 at 1:20 PM EDT