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ESSIC Featured in Fifth National Climate Assessment

ESSIC Assistant Research Scientist Justin Pflug is an author attributed on the Fifth National Climate Assessment, the U.S. Government’s preeminent report on climate change impacts, risks, and responses. The congressionally-mandated effort provides the scientific foundation to support informed decision-making across the United States. Pflug is attributed on two chapters, “Water” and “Compound Events”.

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The image on the left is from satellite imagery in a CA Sierra Nevada watershed. The image on the right is the same image with snow (blue pixels) identified using the approach discussed below. CREDIT: Justin Pflug

Estimating Forest Snow Resources Using Commercial Satellite Observations

1.2 billion people around the world rely on seasonal snow for their water supply. However, no snow-focused satellite currently exists. The satellites that do attempt to look at the spatial coverage and temperature of snow often struggle to retrieve information about snow in forested regions, which accounts for nearly half of Earth’s snow cover. The forest canopy blocks a lot of satellite remote sensing retrievals, forcing scientists to rely on models. However, processes that control how snow accumulates and melts are pretty different in forested and exposed locations. For example, warmer forests like in the US Pacific Northwest have larger amounts of snow intercepted by the forest canopy and winter snowmelt. This typically makes snow last longer in clearings than in the forest. The opposite is true in colder climates, where snow tends to last longer in the forest.

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