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Master of Environmental Data Science

Improving Usability of Snow Data Through Web Based Visualizations and Tutorials

Snowy mountain and forest

Group Members: Ryan Munnikhuis, Julia Parish, Marie Rivers

Faculty Advisors: Samantha Stevenson

Client: UCSB Earth Research Institute




Snow Today is a leading source of environmental data products on seasonal snow. This NASA-funded website is used by scientists, water resource managers, and recreationalists for up-to-date information on the state of seasonal snow at the basin to regional level across the Western United States. Spatial products offered by Snow Today are currently limited to snow-covered area and snow cover days. Understanding the current state and trajectory of global snow cover and snow albedo is critical for understanding global climate change and the impacts that these changes will have on communities around the world that rely on mountain snowmelt for drinking water.

This project will help Snow Today expand the website’s spatial domain coverage from the Western United States to all of North America, Greenland, and High Mountain Asia. In addition, Snow Today’s spatial products are expanding to include snow albedo and spatial/temporal uncertainty quantification for all products. Incorporation of these observations into the Snow Today website can help users to: A) better understand the temporal and spatial distribution of snow, B) drive energy balance models to estimate snow water equivalent volume (SWE), C) calibrate/validate models of snow cover, albedo, or snow volume, or D) directly improve SWE and melt estimates in existing models.

The existing web design and data processing pipeline will not support the new expanded scope. This project will determine how to best display these global data and information on the new Snow Today website. Data processing and statistical analyses will be used to gain meaningful insights into the new Snow Today albedo datasets in the context of how these values influence climate. Based on discussions with the client and interviews with the operational programmers, end-users, and other stakeholders, the project will develop an interactive prototype web application of updates to Snow Today data visualization webpages. The web application will expand accessibility and provide valuable, easily interpretable global data to users. 

Client contact: Timbo Stillinger, Earth Research Institute

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