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.

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