Jim Cast Headquarters, Washington (Phone: 202/358-1779) Cynthia O'Carroll Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt

, Md. (Phone: 301/614-5563) RELEASE: 02-28

Feb. 15, 2002

SNOW SCIENCE, NOT SPORT, IN THE ROCKIES This month, dozens of scientists on the ground, in the air and using satellite observations will begin a multi-year experiment to study winter snow packs on the Colorado side of the Rocky Mountains. The purpose of this NASA-funded experiment is to improve the estimation of snow amount and forecasting of spring flooding due to snowmelt, and to study the role of cold lands within the Earth's climate. Scientists and students from six federal agencies and many universities will be using skis, snowmobiles and aircraft to survey and sample snow during this NASA Cold Land Processes Experiment (CLPX). They will also use microwave measurements from satellites and aircraft to measure characteristics of the snow pack and the freeze/thaw state of the land surface. The CLPX is a research mission concerned with frozen landscapes, where water is frozen either seasonally or permanently because of water stored in snow and ice cover. Cold land regions form an important component of the Earth's hydrologic cycle, and interact significantly with water resources, global weather and climate. Teams of scientists and technicians from three NASA facilities -- the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; and Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. -will take part in this campaign. They will join scientists from the NOAA/National Weather Service's National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NWS/NOHRSC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Region Research

and Engineering Lab, the U.S. Geological Survey, the USDA Agricultural Research Service and graduate students from universities around the world. "We will be making intensive measurements of snow in Colorado's mountains and high-elevation rangelands, including digging hundreds of snow pits to analyze snow water content, temperature and crystal formation at different depths," explained Don Cline, a scientist with the NWS/NOHRSC who leads the CLPX. "We'll use this information to better understand the formation and evolution of snow packs, especially the processes and timing of snowmelt. Observing the transitions in snow, water and energy in such frozen landscapes will ultimately help us design better sensors to measure the water content of snow from space." Michael Jasinski, former manager of NASA's Terrestrial Hydrology Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington, said, "The overall CLPX objectives stem directly from NASA's Earth Science Enterprise Research Strategy to address hydrologic variability and consequences of climate and terrestrial change. Our ultimate goal is to improve prediction of the hydrologic cycle and management of our nation's water resources." The CLPX field campaign will employ two aircraft and measurements from NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites to gather snow data by remote sensing. The data gathered on the ground and from the aircraft will then be compared to the information obtained by the satellites. Aqua is being launched this year and will be operational for the 2003 campaign. By determining the accuracy of the satellites and developing improved snow sensors, researchers hope to someday be able to measure snow quantity and frozen ground from space for the global views needed by forecast models. Dryden Flight Research Center will be flying its DC-8 "Airborne Laboratory" with a variety of microwave imaging and other sensors. The NWS/NOHRSC Airborne Snow Survey Program will also be flying similar snow detection sensors on a NOAA aircraft. The experiment will be conducted in the central Rocky Mountains where there is a wide array of different terrain, snow, soil and ecological characteristics. Background data collection for the experiment began in the fall of 2001. The first field campaign runs from February 19 to 25, to capture cold land properties during mid-winter, and March 24 to 30, 2002, to observe the same areas when the snow and ice begin to melt. This schedule will then be repeated in 2003. The mission is sponsored by the NASA Terrestrial Hydrology Program and

the Earth Observing System Program to address broad NASA Earth Science Enterprise objectives in hydrology, water resources, ecology and atmospheric sciences. More information is available on the Internet at: http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/20020216coldland.html http://www.nohrsc.nws.gov/~cline/clp.html http://lshp.gsfc.nasa.gov http://www.crrel.usace.army.mil -end-