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Measuring Water Content in a Snow Pack

Snow surveyors and water managers need timely data for forecasting and water management decisions. They also need a way to survey particularly remote and hazardous snow packs. Many large metropolitan areas around the world rely on snow pack for a large % of their water supply. Today's SWE sensors are difficult to install, requiring large flat areas that are easily accessed by large vehicles. Hence the current density of SWE sensors is sparse, resulting in extrapolation of SWE information over large areas (100's Km2) which results in highly inaccurate SWE estimation, ultimately leading to poor and costly water management decisions. A lightweight portable SWE sensor that can be installed in remote areas on uneven terrain could result in a much higher SWE sensor density leading to much more accurate SWE data and greatly improved water management decisions.

SWEdar Product Overview

Flat Earth SWEdar sensor is a specifically designed system that non-destructively measures snow pack properties and snow water equivalent (SWE) using Novelda's radar technology. SWEdar is a rugged, low-power sensor that directly measures snow properties and does not require site-specific calibration. The small size, weight and low power requirements make it well suited for remote sites, and it is easily mounted on most existing weather stations. SWEdar has been evaluated against manual snow measurements as well as a network of snow pillows used by the National Resource Conservation Service, and initial results demonstrate that SWEdar measures SWE to within 10% of both of these methods. SWEdar development is currently being finalized so that raw measurements are automatically processed and real-time SWE output can be telemetered.

Yellowstone Park Roadway Snow Depth Research

The Montana State University College of Engineering is currently collaborating with the National Park Service to investigate factors affecting the quality of snowroads in Yellowstone National Park. This study has involved collecting data on individual vehicle pass-bys as well as weather, grooming, and road conditions throughout the park. As part of this study, Flat Earth Inc. has provided researchers with an instrument to measure snow depth. This radar equipment is mounted on a trailer and towed behind a snowmobile, measuring snowroad depth. Researchers have used this data to map snowroad depth throughout the park. This data will help further understanding of the variety of road conditions throughout the park.