Watching the Sierra snow melt

Ziran Zhang, Steven Glaser

Near Caples Lake in the central Sierra, Ziran Zhang and Steven Glaser check a snowmelt sensor. (Image from CITRIS video)

Berkeley engineering grad student Ziran Zhang and engineering professor Steven Glaser put on their snowshoes and headed into the hills recently to take a close look at the snowpack high in the Sierra.

They were checking on wireless sensors spread out across the mountainous terrain, hundreds of them, part of a massive environmental monitoring array that tracks the snowmelt — the key to California’s water supply.

The health of California’s economic engines — agriculture, energy production, housing — all are directly linked to the amount of snow stored in the Sierra during a brief winter window, usually from December to March, writes Daniel McGlynn in a story about the snow sensors on the College of Engineering website. The record-setting drought of the past few years, he adds, has underscored the need for a higher resolution picture of the entire water system.

Read more, and watch a video of Zhang and Glaser at work