Observe Airborne Snow

Jun 7, 2012

Image courtesy of

Well, not literally.

In response to the increased demand for water in a time of climate change, drought, and dust deposition—which has led to a severe drop of lake levels on Lake Mead—NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing the Airborne Snow Observatory.

This observatory and other systems would bring the nation “to a mature monitoring of our snow resource to anchor cutting edge science and water management in an uncertain future.”

Dr. Thomas Painter, a research scientist in the Water and Carbon Cycles Group, in the Earth Sciences Section of JPL will be giving a public lecture, “Melting Snows: The Threatened Lifeblood of the Western U.S.”

“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.” If you remember your Greek legends, after King Dionysius II of Syracuse, Italy switches places with Damocles because the courtier exclaims how magnificent it must be surrounded by infinite wealth and power, Damocles cannot stand the pressure of sitting on the throne under a sword that the king has had hung above his head—which is held by a single hair from a horse’s tail.

Using this legend, Cisero, in his fifth Tusculan Disputation, asks, “Does not Dionysius seem to have made it sufficiently clear that there can be nothing happy for a person over whom some fear always looms?”

Luckily, JPL, Dr. Painter, and countless others are working to foresee the consequences of current environmental changes and taking steps to monitor the situation, which may ultimately lead to an ability to create new means and initiate adaptations to mankind’s ever-increasing demand for water.

Melting Snows: The Threatened Lifeblood of the Western U.S.
Thursday, June 21st, 7 p.m.
The von Kármán Auditorium at JPL
4800 Oak Grove Drive

Friday, June 22nd, 7 p.m.
The Vosloh Forum at Pasadena City College
1570 E. Colorado Blvd.

For more info, visit the Arroyo Seco Foundation or JPL



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