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Posted 4/21/2017

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By Marie Darling
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Public Affairs

U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory researchers recently supported NASA’s SnowEx campaign. Research Physical Scientist Dr. Chris Hiemstra, from the lab’s Alaska Research Office, served as the SnowEx Grand Mesa site lead and helped design and manage the snow measurement campaign. Other CRREL participants conducted core snow depth and density measurements, LiDAR scans, and collected snow samples in coordination with airborne flights.

The CRREL team included Dr. Zoe Courville, Peter Gadomski, Art Gelvin, Dr. Eli Deeb, Dr. Carrie Vuyovich and Dr. Anna Wagner, traveled to Grand Mesa and Senator Beck Basin, Colorado, in support of SnowEx Year One, a multi-year airborne snow campaign funded by NASA’s Terrestrial Hydrology Program to improve remote-sensing measurements of snow on the ground and how much water is contained in that snow. Surveying the Colorado snowpack will aid water resource management in the West.

SnowEx is a $5 million, five-year effort to assess and improve methods for measuring snow under varying canopy conditions and to create a legacy snow dataset. The data collected will support the design of a new NASA satellite that will look at snow, measure its extent and water content.

CRREL fielded six additional participants who helped collect core and ancillary measurements for one to two weeks each during the three week campaign.

“Grand Mesa was chosen for its flatness and range of forest conditions,” said Hiemstra. “The variety of terrain and environments make the ground sites good models for developing global measurements of snow.”

Of special interest are forested areas, which create a challenge in measuring snow for remote sensing techniques. Newer technologies like LiDAR, passive microwave and radars, have shown promise as has a multiple sensor approach to measure water content in snow. 

In addition to science, the campaign was conducted in a way to build community and maximize snow community participation. 

“The campaign was conducted safely and a number of crucial datasets were collected,” said Hiemstra. “The participants wrote glowing reviews of their experience and were impressed with how the campaign was handled.”


crrel ERDC Grand Mesa NASA SnowEx USACE