Fire and Ice Wars: Battles in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

EarthzineDEVELOP Summer 2013 VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Original

Wildfire events (orange) and snow water equivalent (shaded; dark = high, light = low) from SNODAS during the 2008 fire season within the M261E region in the Sierra Nevada.

Team Location: Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California


Andrew Nguyen (San Jose State University)

Chase Mueller (University of Texas at San Antonio)

Roy Petrakis (University of Arizona)

Spencer Adkins (Brigham Young University)

Olivia Kuss (Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis)

Monica Kumaran (Harker High School, San Jose, California)


Marc Meyer (U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region 5)

Cindy Schmidt (Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, DEVELOP Science Mentor)


High Sierra snow and ice provide the primary water supply for the Sierra Nevada ecosystem. Understanding how climate change affects this high Sierra snowmelt and how these changes impact forest disturbance for this mountain range is an important factor for future forest management. Snow water equivalent (SWE) anomalies were averaged on a monthly basis and overall trends of snowpack availability and timing of snowmelt were examined throughout the Sierra Nevada from 2003-2012.åÊ Periods of decreased snowpack were correlated to periods of increased forest fires and disturbance.åÊ This project used NASA Earth observations such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS, for snow cover) and Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM, extent of forest disturbance, for climate and vegetative analysis).åÊ This project also used ancillary and modeled datasets such as temperature, precipitation, surface temperature, and water flow rate to provide a better understanding of the relationship between snowpack and soil moisture availability to forest wildfires. Furthermore, a Generalized Additive Model (GAM) was used to make predictions of future forest disturbance patterns as well to analyze the sensitivity of particular variables indicative of wildfire.

Return to the Summer 2013 VPS page.