MODIS Observes 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. MODIS data are crucial tools for studying changes that have occurred on the surface of the Earth, including during times of drought. This video highlights Terra MODIS data over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and the changes in the amount of snowpack in the area from 2000 to 2017. Scientists use measurements of snowpack as a key measurement of drought, as the water from the melting snowpack is a source of drinking water for Californians. Learn more about MODIS at NASA's Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) (, located at the USGS Earth Resources Observation Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:01:02

Location Taken: Sierra Nevadas, CA, US


NASA’s Terra MODIS sensor
can be used to observe changes

around the world since 2000.

The data are frequently used to
study drought and water availability.

Here are the Terra MODIS observations
of the snowpack on the Sierra Nevada

mountain range from 2000 to 2017.
The melt from this snowpack provides

California with 30 percent of their
drinking water during years with

average rainfall. 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 the snowpack is smaller in
size than it is during the wetter years.

Lower amounts of snowpack can be
problematic during times of drought,

as it limits the water resources
for California residents.