PhD Research - W. Tyler Brandt

BA, Biology, Whitman College; MS, Coastal and Watershed Science and Policy, California State University, Monterey Bay

In California’s Sierra Nevada, ten or fewer winter storms are responsible for most of the annual precipitation, which falls mostly as snow. Presently, surface stations are used to measure the dynamics of mountain precipitation. However, even in places like the Sierra Nevada — one of the most gauged regions in the world — the paucity of surface stations can lead to large errors in estimates of precipitation generated by winter storms, thereby biasing both total-water-year and short-term streamflow forecasts.

To improve streamflow forecasts, we require additional measurements of precipitation that are not limited to a few points on the landscape. Remotely sensed snow depth and water equivalent, prior to and post storms, might be a novel solution. The difference between image acquisitions, either from satellite or aircraft, would equate to an estimate of accumulated precipitation that is truly spatial in nature, i.e. wall-to-wall coverage of a watershed. NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO), an imaging spectrometer and LiDAR system, has measured snow across the entire Tuolumne River Basin in California’s Sierra Nevada for the past four years, 2013-2016, and measurements will continue. ASO flies ten missions per year and monitors the progression of snowmelt for water-supply forecasting; nonetheless, a number of flights bookended storms, allowing for estimates of snow accumulation.

Brandt is working with ASO recorded storms in California’s central Sierra Nevada to determine basin orographic effects — how precipitation varies with elevation — as well as the spatial patterns in total precipitation. He will compare these results to a number of modeled precipitation products to assess the accuracy of these datasets in mountain environments. Finally, he will be using a hydrologic model to explore the hydrologic consequences of different precipitation products for streamflow generation, soil moisture and evapotranspiration

Year Admitted: 2012
Research Areas: Snow Hydrology, Remote Sensing, Water Resources, GIS
Faculty Advisor: Jeff Dozier
Office: Bren Hall 1001
Phone: 509-301-4865

Dozier Lab
Curriculum Vitae

Fellowship Awards

  • NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship