By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A new NASA study is focusing on snow in the western United States, with a goal of better estimating the world’s supply of fresh water.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt controls a satellite called GPM, which tracks rain and snow globally.

“Specifically designed to measure falling snow and rain through the atmosphere,” said Dr. Dalia Kirschbaum, with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “And it actually has the most advanced instruments to do that from space right now.”

What NASA is exploring is the next generation of instruments to launch.

They’re now flying over the snow pack in the Colorado Rockies. Researchers are on board a plane testing the equipment against what researchers on the ground are measuring.

“To look at that snow depth, or the water that’s stored in the snow,” said Dr. Kirshbaum. “To get a much better idea of how these instruments could actually be put on a future satellite mission.”

This isn’t just research for research sake, with the water locked in snow being critical to life on earth – for drinking and for growing crops – not just in the western U.S., but throughout the world.

“A sixth of the world relies on snowpack and glaciers for their water and for agriculture,” said Dr. Kirshbaum. “So understanding how those water resources are stored from space, will take us a long way in better managing our freshwater resources.”

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