20 February 2020

Love snow? Use this tool to monitor snow conditions

Scientists, water resource managers and winter recreationists take notice: a new tool, entitled Snow Today, is available to help snow lovers monitor conditions—from the local to regional scale. Snow Today provides near-real-time updates of snow conditions across the Northern Hemisphere as well as monthly analyses of the data, focusing on the Western United States. This is a joint venture of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR).

Led by Karl Rittger of INSTAAR and Mark Raleigh of NSIDC, Snow Today is meant to serve an interdisciplinary audience—from skiers and snowmobilers to climate scientists to water resource managers and those simply interested in weather. It fills a much-needed gap in snow science communication by presenting an ongoing narrative on snow conditions that ties together data, analysis and context. Each year, the Snow Today team will release a monthly analysis from January to May or June, depending on conditions, with the first post available today.

Snow Today analyzes snow cover area, which is the extent of snow-covered ground in a region, and snow cover days, which are the number of days that snow covers a region. Both indicators respond to changes in weather and climate and hold significance for water resource management. Data are updated daily and come from the NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite as well as on the ground measurements. Satellite data can observe snow conditions everywhere, including at elevations above where on the ground observations are possible. The Snow Today team is hoping to add more data topics in the future, including snow albedo. 

The NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis and Greenland Today scientific analyses inspired Snow Today, which is meant to build on the legacy of the late NSIDC scientist Andrew Slater's near-real-time “Change in Snow Water Equivalent” website. Like Slater’s site, Snow Today will convey information on Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), which is the amount of water contained within the snowpack, and bolster that data using satellite information to inform a more comprehensive picture of the entire Western United States.  

Funding for Snow Today is provided by the NASA Terrestrial Hydrology Program.