- Original Caption Released with Image:
These two false-color composite images of the Mammoth Mountain area in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Calif., show significant seasonal changes in snow cover. The image at left was acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C and X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on its 67th orbit on April 13, 1994. The image is centered at 37.6 degrees north latitude and 119 degrees west longitude. The area is about 36 kilometers by 48 kilometers (22 miles by 29 miles). In this image, red is L-band (horizontally transmitted and vertically received) polarization data; green is C-band (horizontally transmitted and vertically received) polarization data; and blue is C-band (horizontally transmitted and received) polarization data.
The image at right was acquired on October 3, 1994, on the space shuttle Endeavour's 67th orbit of the second radar mission. Crowley Lake appears dark at the center left of the image, just above or south of Long Valley. The Mammoth Mountain ski area is visible at the top right of the scene. The red areas correspond to forests, the dark blue areas are bare surfaces and the green areas are short vegetation, mainly brush. The changes in color tone at the higher elevations (e.g. the Mammoth Mountain ski area) from green-blue in April to purple in September reflect changes in snow cover between the two missions.
The April mission occurred immediately following a moderate snow storm. During the mission the snow evolved from a dry, fine-grained snowpack with few distinct layers to a wet, coarse-grained pack with multiple ice inclusions. Since that mission, all snow in the area has melted except for small glaciers and permanent snowfields on the Silver Divide and near the headwaters of Rock Creek. On October 3, 1994, only discontinuous patches of snow cover were present at very high elevations following the first snow storm of the season on September 28, 1994. For investigations in hydrology and land-surface climatology, seasonal snow cover and alpine glaciers are critical to the radiation and water balances.
SIR-C/X-SAR is a powerful tool because it is sensitive to most snowpack conditions and is less influenced by weather conditions than other remote sensing instruments, such as Landsat. In parallel with the operational SIR-C data processing, an experimental effort is being conducted to test SAR data processing using the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's massively parallel supercomputing facility, centered around the Cray Research T3D. These experiments will assess the abilities of large supercomputers to produce high throughput SAR processing in preparation for upcoming data-intensive SAR missions. The images released here were produced as part of this experimental effort.
Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C and X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. The 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, complemented by 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 fuer Luft und Raumfahrt e.V.(DLR), the major partner in science, operations and data processing of X-SAR.
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