News Story

Xue Awarded NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) first-year Ph.D. student Yuan Xue was recently awarded a prestigious three-year NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) in recognition of her efforts to develop a more accurate estimate of the mass of water in large snowpacks across North America.

Advised by CEE Assistant Professor Barton Forman, Xue received the fellowship based on her proposal entitled, "Advancing Atmospheric and Forest Decoupling in Passive Microwave Observations over Snow Covered Land Using the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) and the NASA Catchment Land Surface Model." Her proposed study addresses two significant sources of uncertainty - atmospheric and overlying forest effects - in remotely-sensed passive microwave observations for use in estimating the mass of water in large snowpacks.

This mass - known as the Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) - represents the depth of water that would theoretically result in the instance a snowpack melted. The ability to measure SWE is significant to environmental engineers because snowpacks serve as the primary source of drinking water for much of the world’s population. Unfortunately for researchers, atmospheric and overlying forest effects often confound efforts to measure SWE from space. As such, it is essential for researchers to first decouple the atmospheric and forest-related signals from the snow-related signal to accurately measure SWE.

In efforts to combat this challenge, Xue is working to integrate different sources of information - such as an advanced land surface model with the space-borne measurements - to provide a more accurate estimate of SWE across North America. Such knowledge could be used to help mitigate the effects of droughts and floods, as well as better enable water resource managers to preserve and protect this vital natural water supply. 

Published June 3, 2015