Cascades & Sierra Nevada Mountains Water Resources

Cascades & Sierra Nevada Mountains Water Resources

A Comparison of Remotely-Sensed Climate Data Records over the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains for Improved Climate Monitoring

Shifting hydrologic processes have become a significant problem in California, Oregon, and Washington. In recent years, the average winter temperatures have risen, spring snowmelt has occurred earlier, and a greater portion of precipitation has fallen as rain rather than snow in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. The natural reservoir of water stored in mountain snowpack has drastically declined, limiting water availability in the summer and forcing water managers to reassess their water management regimes. Current methods of understanding orographic precipitation in the West are limited to ground-station and volunteer-based observations, which are spatially limited in such areas. Considering the needs of the Western Regional Climate Center and the National Weather Service (NWS) Western Region, this project enhanced the understanding of precipitation in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Morphing technique (CMORPH), the Global Precipitation Model (GPM), and the NOAA NWS SNOw Data Assimilation System (SNODAS) satellite data records. A comparison between satellite and in situ datasets revealed information about the usefulness of remotely-sensed data in estimating orographic precipitation. Ultimately, this project created several output products for the end-user: maps comparing in situ and satellite data, detailing precipitation variability, showing anomalies in precipitation, and identifying regions that lack in situ data while performing well at the remotely-sensed level.

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Spring 2016
Western Regional Climate Center
National Weather Service Western Region, Climate Services Division
NASA Earth Observations
Sam Swanson (Project Lead)
Kevin Rapa
Jessica Sutton
Mike Kruk (Earth Resources Technology, Inc.)

Project Video

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