The Airborne Snow Observatory is an Earth-based mission designed to collect data on the snow melt flowing out of major water basins in the western United States. The data could help improve water management for 1.5 billion people worldwide who rely on snow melt for their water supply.

The mission began a three-year demonstration in April 2013, flying aboard a Twin Otter aircraft that makes weekly flights over the Tuolumne River Basin in California and monthly flights over the Uncompahgre River Basin in Colorado during the snow-melt season. These basins are the primary water supply for millions of Americans in the western United States.

The Airborne Snow Observatory is a collaboration between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Department of Water Resources.

Key Discoveries

- Created the first maps of the entire snow pack of two major mountain watersheds in California and Colorado, producing the most accurate measurements of how much water they hold.

- Performed the first snowfall precipitation measurements over entire mountain basins, providing atmospheric scientists and hydrologists with their first spatially complete understandings of precipitation in mountains

Scientific Instrument(s)

- Imaging Spectrometer
- LIDAR