- Original Caption Released with Image:
This image is a false-color composite of the Mammoth Mountain area in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. The image is centered at 37.6 degrees north latitude and 119.0 degrees west longitude. The area is approximately 11.5 kilometers by 78.3 kilometers (7.2 by 48.7 miles) in size. The image was acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C and X-Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) aboard space shuttle Endeavour on its 40th orbit, April 11, 1994. The city of Mammoth Lakes is visible in the bottom right portion of the scene. In this color representation, red is C-band HV-polarization, green is C-band VV-polarization and blue is the ratio of C-band VV to C-band HV. Blue areas are lakes or slopes facing away from the radar illumination. Yellow represents areas of dry, old snow as well as slopes facing directly the radar illumination.
At the time of the SIR-C overflight, the sky conditions were partially cloudy, with low and cold air temperatures. Total snow depth is about 1 to 1.5 meters (3 to 5 feet). The current snow accumulation is only about 40 percent of the average for the season. The most recent snowfall in the area covered the entire area with about 30 centimeters (14 inches) of fresh dry snow. Above 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) elevation the snowpack is dry. Below that elevation, the snowpack has a layered structure. Snow hydrologists are using SIR-C/X-SAR data to determine both the quantity of water held by seasonal snowpack and the amount of snow melting.
SIR-C/X-SAR radars illuminate Earth with microwaves allowing detailed observations at any time, regardless of weather or sunlight conditions. SIR-C/X-SAR uses three microwave wavelengths: L-band (24 cm), C-band (6 cm) and X-band (3 cm). The multi-frequency data will be used by the international scientific community to better understand the global environment and how it is changing. The SIR-C/X-SAR data, in conjunction with aircraft and ground studies, will give scientists clearer insights into those environmental changes which are caused by nature and those changes which are induced by human activity.
SIR-C was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. X-SAR was developed by the Dornier and Alenia Spazio companies for the German space agency, Deutsche Agentur fuer Raumfahrtangelegenheiten (DARA), and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) with the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Luft und Raumfahrt e.v. (DLR), the major partner in science, operation and data processing of X-SAR.
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