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How tech is helping analyze hydrology at Yosemite, may help with California drought situation

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Scientists are using some sophisticated scientific equipment to analyze hydrology in the Sierra Nevadas and at Yosemite National Park. The data pulled from snowpack in mountains is being used to assess water needs in drought-stricken California. 

The data is being collected and put to use by various industries, government agencies and researchers to forecast water availability versus need during the drought in California. The drought is the worst in the state's history. 

Snow scientists involved in the research made their quest to Yosemite in July from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is located in Pasadena, Calif. Farmers, dam operators, power utilities and others are taking advantage of the data that is available, according to a report

About 70 percent of the available water in California comes from this snowpack located throughout the Sierra Nevada range. This important resource fuels much of the society and natural wonder of the state, including wildlife habitat, human recreation, food production and hydroelectric power. About half of the fruit and nuts grown in the United States comes from this powerful source. It sustains tens of millions of people. 

The government has put restrictions on water use. However, not all parts of California are subject to the regulations, such as the Morongo Band of Mission Native Americans, who lease land to Nestlé. Nestlé has continued to bottle missions of gallons of water from the desert throughout the drought, as told in this recent Tech Times articleWildlife has also faced danger from wildfires, and shrinking snowpacks don't help matters much, as this report finds. 

A special type of spectrometer is used to measure how much radiation is reflected off a surface in both the visible and invisible infrared spectrum of light. Scientists use data from the snow to determine how fast it will likely melt.

Fresher snow usually has smaller crystals that reflect more of the sun's energy. These crystals help the snow stay colder longer. That obviously means it melts more slowly. As snow sits, however, the crystals usually expand and begin to absorb more energy and melt more quickly. Dust and black carbon sources from human industry speed up the process, as it lays across the snowpack. As the soil dries up, more dust and particles accelerate the process. 

The device will be useful in assessing all of these factors. It remains to be seen if human beings will responsibly use the data to conserve on Mother Nature's most precious resource that sustains all life. 

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