The von Kármán Lecture Series: 2012
Dr. Thomas Painter
Research Scientist in the Water and Carbon Cycles Group, in the Earth Sciences Section, JPL
Snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada and the mountains of the Upper Colorado River Basin provides the water upon which Western society is built. In recent years, increases in population and drought have pushed water demand past snowmelt-dominated supply. Climate change and dust deposition from disturbed lands have already begun the encroachment on this precious resource. Drops of lake levels on Lake Mead have threatened unprecedented domestic and international reductions in deliveries and the threat to southern California’s water supply of a seismic breach of levies in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta hangs like the Sword of Damocles. JPL is developing the Airborne Snow Observatory and other systems to bring the nation to a mature monitoring of our snow resource to anchor cutting edge science and water management in an uncertain future.