Map showing the 31-year average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada mountains. (Credit: Steve Margulis / UCLA)
Recent years of drought have been tough for Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is still recovering from deficits. According to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, it will be another three years before the mountains get enough snowpack to hit pre-drought levels.
Their findings were gleaned with the help of satellite images from NASA’s Landsat orbiters, which scientists used to form a dataset covering the period from 1985 to 2015. The images helped to fill in gaps left by sensors deployed throughout the mountain range that typically only cover the middle elevations.
By combining the satellite images with other information from snow surveys, the dataset on snowpack volumes was extended back to 1951. From there, the investigators applied probabilistic modeling to predict water availability for snowpack in the future, pinpointing a forecast that the Sierra Nevada won’t get back to pre-drought snowpack levels until 2019.
Full results of the work are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Top image: Map showing the 31-year average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada mountains. (Credit: Steve Margulis / UCLA)