California News

Mar 26, 2014 7:16 AM by Associated Press

NASA measures snowpack in California, Colorado

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The snowpack atop mountain peaks in California and Colorado has a new set of eyes watching from high above to better gauge the amount of water that will rumble down rivers and streams each spring as runoff.

In a new mission, NASA fixed a lumbering twin-engine plane with high-tech equipment to make regular snow surveys, starting last weekend in drought-stricken California. At an altitude of up to 20,000 feet, the so-called Airborne Snow Observatory measures snowpack's depth and water content with precision.

Scientists say that from the lofty heights they can calculate snow depth to within 4 inches and water content within 5 percent.

NASA scientist Tom Painter, the mission's leader, said up to 80 percent of our water comes from the snowmelt, making it important to understand.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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