Combating Drought in Atacama, Chile, with NASA Earth Observations

Project Team: Chile Water Resources II Team
Team Location: Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia


MODIS snow cover extent of the Copiapó and Huasco River catchments in Atacama, Chile.

MODIS snow cover extent of the Copiapó and Huasco River catchments in Atacama, Chile.



Authors:
Jeffry Ely (Old Dominion University)
Lydia Cuker (Old Dominion University)
Joshua Kelly (University of Rhode Island)
Laura Macaluso (Christopher Newport University)
Joseph Novak (Old Dominion University)


Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP National Science Advisor)
James Favors (NASA DEVELOP Deputy National Lead)


Past/Other Contributors:
Bethany Burress (Christopher Newport University)
Amberle Keith (Idaho State University)
Ajoke Williams (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


Abstract:


Chile’s central-northern regions depend largely on seasonal Andean snowmelt and a system of dams to provide enough water to support a growing population and industry. These regions have seen a sustained decline in precipitation and are becoming increasingly arid. The Centro de Información de Recursos Naturales (CIREN) maintains and interprets images and data as they relate to agriculture and natural resources within central-northern Chile. Currently, measurements are limited by sparse monitoring stations at the base of the mountains, and improvement is sought in the capability to forecast water availability and increase the effectiveness of water management policy. To highlight areas of desired study, historical changes in maximum and minimum snow cover extent between 2001 and 2013 were mapped using data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS).


The Huasco and Copiapó basins in the Atacama region of central-northern Chile were identified as high drought impact regions, due in part to the presence of both agricultural and mining industries. Building on methodology established in a previous study of the Limarí basin, NASA Earth observation data from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E), and MODIS were used with assistance from the Soil Water and Assessment Tool (SWAT) extension to delineate the watershed boundaries, analyze daily snow covered area, calculate basin temperature characteristics and assess the region’s soil moisture. Remotely sensed data were combined with in situ measurements from weather stations located in the area and were compiled into a set of basin characteristics for input into the Snowmelt Runoff Model (SRM) for simulation. Multiyear averages of specific basin parameters were developed to allow SRM to simulate a projected output three months into the future.


Executable scripts and accompanying tutorials were developed for use by the project partners in Chile for the upcoming 2014 melting season in September. In pursuit of a more comprehensive transfer of knowledge between the DEVELOP Program and the partners, additional tutorials were developed to guide users in further development of similar capabilities in other basins throughout Chile.



Back to VPS page.

Tags:  

9 Comments

ChaseMueller 01-04-2014, 15:10

This is another one of those projects that I see the soon to be launch SMAP sensor helping. Would it be difficult to incorporate future soil moisture data from SMAP into the model?

Reply
JeffEly 01-04-2014, 18:35

ChaseMueller  
Thanks for your question.
Soil moisture data is not used quantitatively in this study, but subjectively to evaluate likely hydrological behavior of the basin at a particular time of year. The current model could be altered to simulate the ground as a sink, with a known volume of water at a given time derived from SMAP data (probably), and the depletion and replenishment of that sink would produce one additional additive term in the model equation. In short, SMAP could be incorporated, but not 
We suspect however that the largest impact of future NASA Data will come from the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (GPM) when that data is made available. For simulating runoff, In-situ precipitation data is best, but these weather stations are not located at sufficiently high elevations to detect precipitation events which occur throughout most of the basins. TRMM is not optimally suited to the environment under study, but is used to identify precipitation events that the weather monitoring stations miss entirely. GPM is far better suited to this area of the earth, and is expected to detect precipitation events as well as measure their quantities far more reliably than TRMM.
-Jeff

Reply
JeffEly 01-04-2014, 18:35

ChaseMueller  
Thanks for your question.
Soil moisture data is not used quantitatively in this study, but subjectively to evaluate likely hydrological behavior of the basin at a particular time of year. The current model could be altered to simulate the ground as a sink, with a known volume of water at a given time derived from SMAP data (probably), and the depletion and replenishment of that sink would produce one additional additive term in the model equation. In short, SMAP could be incorporated, but not 
We suspect however that the largest impact of future NASA Data will come from the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (GPM) when that data is made available. For simulating runoff, In-situ precipitation data is best, but these weather stations are not located at sufficiently high elevations to detect precipitation events which occur throughout most of the basins. TRMM is not optimally suited to the environment under study, but is used to identify precipitation events that the weather monitoring stations miss entirely. GPM is far better suited to this area of the earth, and is expected to detect precipitation events as well as measure their quantities far more reliably than TRMM.
-Jeff

Reply
anjward7 02-04-2014, 15:57

Does the SRM only forecast three months into the future, or was that just as far as this project got?  Also, it could have been in the video, but what was the forecast for the 2014 season?

Reply
JeffEly 02-04-2014, 16:17

anjward7  
Another good question. Three months is just the sweet spot range that contains the most useful information. At the beginning of the growing season, a three month forecast can be very influential in crop selection and water rationing decisions. The set of scripts and tools to be delivered to Chile is designed with this in mind.
To answer your second question: The spring growing season starts around early October (southern hemisphere), so a spring and summer 2014 forecast should be made with data at the end of this September. The most recent years the model could be validated in all basins under study was 2011, because not all the required in situ data could be made available to NASA DEVELOP after mid 2012. Researchers in Chile will need to have more immediate access to this data if meaningful forecasts are to be made, and our project partners understand that.
-Jeff

Reply
anjward7 03-04-2014, 11:14

JeffEly – Oh wow!  Thanks for the good answers :) 
Is this project continuing? Or are the tools ready for use by Chilean researchers? I think another project, perhaps next year, that uses additional NASA remote sensing products to collect actual data to validate the SRM would be appreciated by all! :)

Reply
AndrewNguyen1 04-04-2014, 14:41

Dose this model take into account soil water storage or bedrock infiltration? Im assuming the soil moisture (SM) inputs play a role in this.

Also, just a crazy thought, but, could you spool up this snowmelt model with climate variables from CIMP5 (ie. total precipitation and ambient temperatures)?
Of course this is assuming SM and Snowpack are to remain consistent, which will not be the case. However, Im sure these can be modeled using these future climate variables. Just something that would be interesting to see!

Reply
Sam Weber 08-04-2014, 13:56

Great video! Did the team run any correlation analysis to seek significant thresholds between elevation, temperature, and soil moisture as it relates to snow melt run off?

Reply

Leave a Reply