This invention is designed to ascertain the snow water equivalence (SWE) of snowpacks with better spatial and temporal resolutions than present techniques. The approach is ground-based, as opposed to some techniques that are air-based. In addition, the approach is compact, non-destructive, and can be communicated with remotely, and thus can be deployed in areas not possible with current methods.

Presently there are two principal ground-based techniques for obtaining SWE measurements. The first is manual snow core measurements of the snowpack. This approach is labor-intensive, destructive, and has poor temporal resolution. The second approach is to deploy a large (e.g., 3×3 m) snowpillow, which requires significant infrastructure, is potentially hazardous [uses a ≈200-gallon (≈760-L) antifreeze-filled bladder], and requires deployment in a large, flat area. High deployment costs necessitate few installations, thus yielding poor spatial resolution of data. Both approaches have limited usefulness in complex and/or avalanche-prone terrains. This approach is compact, nondestructive to the snowpack, provides high temporal resolution data, and due to potential low cost, can be deployed with high spatial resolution.

The invention consists of three primary components: a robust wireless network and computing platform designed for harsh climates, new SWE sensing strategies, and algorithms for smart sampling, data logging, and SWE computation.

This work was done by Jeff Frolik and Christian Skalka of the University of Vermont for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16352-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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