Montana SnowEx



So these photon measurements are from central Montana, an agricultural area that most people aren't always familiar with, and they think of Montana. But Montana grows a lot of grain, a lot of foodstuffs, wheat, lentils, peas, and these measurements are right in that kind of agricultural heartland of the state. Exactly dead center, geographic center. So because we're working in an agricultural area that has a lot of different crop types, and so snow accumulates and persists at different rates depending on the crop type. And a lot of is because of wind. And so what we're able to do using lidar is we're able to measure or quantify how that snow persists in different crop types and where it persists. And and that's something that has not been done very much to really understand how crop type and stubble, height influence snow accumulation. And so lidar allows us to do that and flying over it with with drones or UAVs really allows us to do a more focused study. Neumann: By comparing ICESat-2 measurements from times of year when there's no snow on the landscape with following passes, when there is snow on the landscape, allows us to measure the depth or the height of the snow sitting on the land. In this scene in Moccasin, Montana, this is an agricultural area where the snow cover can often be discontinuous and patchy. The small footprint size of ICESat-2, which is right around 10 meters or about 30 feet, and the fast pulse repetition rate of the laser allows scientists to measure small scale changes in the snow depth across the landscape. That can be important in agricultural areas like Mocassin, Montana, where that seasonal snowfall is a primary source of the spring water to allow crops to start growing. Sproles: So another way that ICESat-2 is potentially valuable looking forward is to combine that data with with new techniques that are coming off new sensors. For example, NASA is going to be launching NISAR next year. That will really allow us to compare and NISAR satellite uses a different kind of sensor. It uses kind of a microwave-based approach, as compared to a laser based approach. I think comparing those two with regards to snow depth, again, is going to provide a lot more detail and insights that will weigh at much more broad scales than we can do with this more focused study area.