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MODIS and VIIRS Observe Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

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Detailed Description

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor is located onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor is located onboard the joint NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) and data products created by NASA provide a continuation of the MODIS data heritage. These data are crucial for studying changes that have occurred on the surface of the Earth, including during times of drought. This video uses images produced from Terra MODIS and S-NPP NASA VIIRS data over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to show changes in the amount of snowpack from 2001 to 2018. Scientists use measurements of snowpack as a key indicator of drought, as the water from the melting snowpack is a source of fresh water for Californians. The California Department of Water Resources measures the amount of snowpack in the mountains every year on April 1, to provide consistent data and to study the size of the snowpack. Notice how in the drought years, for example 2003 and 2015, the snowpack is smaller in size than it is during the wetter years, for example 2005 and 2017. Lesser amounts of snowpack can be problematic during times of drought, as water resources for California residents can be limited. To learn more about these data and other data products distributed by the LP DAAC please visit

The LP DAAC is one of twelve NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) DAACs and operates as a partnership with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It is located at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

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