Jan 5, 2018

NASA is recruiting citizen scientists to measure snow depth

Women cross country skiing on the Icicle River trail in Leavenworth, Eastern Washington State. Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket via Getty Images

A NASA program is recruiting citizen scientists to measure snowpack in the backcountry of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: The measurements are used to estimate how much water is being held in the snow, and therefore how much will be released into rivers and reservoirs in the area. In the western U.S., "nearly three-fourths of annual stream flow that provides drinking water comes from spring and summer melt," writes the AP's Dan Joling. Researchers want to improve the accuracy of measurements so that simulations can better predict the effect of snowmelt on a watershed.

How it works: Participants can measure snow depth with an avalanche probe, something most people hiking in these areas already carry, David Hill, a professor at Oregon State University and one of the researchers on the program told the AP. The measurements are then entered into a smartphone app, which records the location and time of measurement.

  • Gabriel Wolken, a research geologist with the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, told the AP, "the hundreds of measurements collected far outpaced what the scientists could gather."
  • Hill said the input from the public is cutting errors "in our modeled snow-water equivalent...by about 90 percent."
  • The program, called Community Snow Observations, is meant to complement snow telemetry stations that also provide measurements though there aren't many of them due to installation and maintenance costs, said Hill.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 1,225,360 — Total deaths: 66,542 — Total recoveries: 252,615Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 312,249 — Total deaths: 8,503 — Total recoveries: 15,021Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. Surgeon general says this week will be "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. "We're having the convention at the end of August." Biden says DNC may have to hold virtual convention.
  5. States updates: The Louisiana governor warned that his state is set to run out of ventilators in four days. Illinois governor claims Trump doesn't understand the word "federal."
  6. Oil latest: Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Work update: Employees still going to work are often facing temperature checks, distanced work stations, protective devices and mass absences.
  8. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Illinois governor: "The president does not understand the word 'federal'"

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that President Trump's comments about the federal government's stockpile of medical equipment suggest he "does not understand the word 'federal.'"

Why it matters: White House adviser Jared Kushner argued at a press briefing last week that the "notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use."

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll passes 8,500

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 8,500 in the U.S. early Sunday, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day since April 1.

Why it matters: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday that this upcoming week will be "the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health