Snowmelt monitored in the Baltic Sea watershed region in near real time

April 5, 2007
Snowmelt monitored in the Baltic Sea watershed region in near real time
Satellites are monitoring and mapping the snow melting process to help local authorities manage water supplies and predict and prepare for floods. Credit: ESA

As spring melt of winter snow is underway in the Baltic Sea watershed region, satellites are monitoring and mapping the snow melting process to help local authorities manage water supplies and predict and prepare for floods. Remote sensing is the only technique capable of providing a comprehensive view over such a large area.

Within the context of ESA’s Polar View programme, funded through the Earthwatch GMES Service Element (GSE), the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) is using images from Earth observation satellites to provide snow maps of Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and parts of Western Russia and Belarus from the beginning of March until the end of May.

Satellite images are downlinked to the Arctic Research Centre of the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and then passed on to SYKE, which takes the image data and processes it further to create the snow maps.

SYKE's snow-mapping method produces information on fractional snow coverage for all non-mountainous areas, even heavily forested spots, with fine resolution. The maps are published on the SYKE website as soon as they are compiled, usually within four to five hours of satellite overpass.

Because snow is vital to the water cycle, predicting when and how snow will melt and be released into local ecosystems is very useful. For instance several Finnish regional environment centres and the Estonian Meteorological Institute are using the snow maps on a daily basis for hydrological modelling, flood forecasting and water resources management.

The snow maps are also used by the commercial sector for activities such as managing hydroelectric power production and estimating how much time is left in the season for winter sports.

In 2008, the mapping project will expand to include parts of Poland.

Source: ESA

Explore further: Warming seas and melting ice sheets

Related Stories

Subzero learning environment enabling avalanche research

April 12, 2015

A recent article about avalanche research in Popular Science referred to the effort toward knowing more about the avalanche in its subhead as "snowslide science," and the article was about the interesting lab work going on ...

Ideas about how cities will meet water-rationing mandates

May 22, 2015

California is in the fourth year of an historic drought. It's now so bad that state water authorities canceled the last monthly measurement of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. There wasn't enough snow to even bother trying.

Public asked to help name features on Pluto

March 24, 2015

On July 14, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will fly past Pluto, offering the first close-up look at that small, distant world and its largest moon, Charon. These denizens of the outer solar system will be transformed from ...

Recommended for you

Earth's mineralogy unique in the cosmos

August 26, 2015

New research from a team led by Carnegie's Robert Hazen predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.