Seasonal snowpack is a critical water resource throughout the Western U.S. Help the Bureau of Reclamation estimate snow water equivalent (SWE) at a high spatiotemporal resolution using near real-time data sources.
About the project
View of a SNOTEL site from U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.
This challenge uses remote sensing data, manual snow measurements, and climate information to estimate SWE at a high spatiotemporal resolution. New and improved SWE estimates built upon existing ground, air, and space-based technologies will improve water supply forecasts, helping reservoir operators to manage limited water supplies and respond to extreme weather events.
Ground-based measurements of SWE
Ground-based methods measure snow in a single location or in a small area. Most ground-based methods use basic technologies like a stick or tube to physically measure snow depth. While these measures are considered highly accurate, they typically require a person to visit a location that may be difficult to access on a regular basis. For over 80 years, a network of in situ instruments managed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) called snow courses have been used to monitor snowpacks.
In the late 1970s, manually measured snow courses were augmented by automated snow and weather stations (most notably the NRCS SNOTEL stations network). SNOTEL stations measure SWE using a technology called a snow pillow, which uses a flexible bladder filled with antifreeze to convert fluid pressure into weight. These stations provide continuous readings throughout the snow accumulation and runoff seasons, but are spatially limited and can face challenging maintenance issues. Volunteer networks of weather observers around the US help to supplement this data using low-cost tools to map and measure precipitation.
Air and space-based measurements of SWE
The Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) methodology, developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and now commercially available (ASO, Inc.) uses an aircraft-based imaging spectrometer to measure differences between snow-covered and snow-free surfaces. ASO combines lidar-derived snow depth with albedo estimates to model SWE at a high level of accuracy, though flight timing and coverage is not guaranteed.
Polar-orbiting sensors have become invaluable for monitoring seasonal snowpack because they provide rich information where ground measures are unavailable. Remote sensing techniques derive characteristics of snowpack by measuring the spectral signature, or reflectance and variation, of electromagnetic radiation. Per-pixel snow coverage, or fractional snow-covered area (fSCA), is an important snow measure that can be retrieved from multispectral satellite imagery. Despite the many advantages of satellite data, corrections are required in shallow snowpack, forested areas, and complex terrain. For more information on space-based remote sensing for snow monitoring, we suggest checking out this helpful journal article.
About the Bureau of Reclamation
Reclamation employees deliver reliable water and hydropower for the western United States.
Established in 1902, the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) is best known for the dams, power plants, and canals it constructed in the 17 Western U.S. states. These water projects led to homesteading and promoted the economic development of the West. Reclamation has constructed more than 600 dams and reservoirs including Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and Grand Coulee on the Columbia River.
Today, Reclamation is the largest wholesaler of water in the country. It brings water to more than 31 million people, and provides one out of five Western farmers (140,000) with irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland that produce 60% of the nation's vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts. Reclamation is also the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the US. Its 53 power plants annually provide more than 40 billion kilowatt hours generating nearly a billion dollars in power revenues and produce enough electricity to serve 3.5 million homes.
Reclamation is a water management agency with a Strategic Plan outlining numerous programs, initiatives and activities that will help the Western U.S. meet new water needs and balance the multitude of competing uses of water in the West. Its mission is to assist in meeting the increasing water demands of the West while protecting the environment and the public’s investment in these structures. Reclamation emphasizes fulfilling water delivery, water conservation, water recycling and reuse, and finding ways to bring together interests to address the competing needs for limited water resources.
Reclamation operates and maintains water and power projects in 17 Western U.S. states:
You can learn more here:
Snowcast Showdown: Development Stage: Rules and Terms of Data Use
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Selection of winners
This Competition is a challenge of skill and the final results are determined by evaluating a combination of quantitative and qualitative factors, as more fully described on the Competition Website. For that portion of the Competition evaluated quantitatively, the results will be determined solely by leaderboard ranking on the private leaderboard based on an objective statistical evaluation metric published on the Competition Website prior to commencement of the Competition (subject to compliance with these Competition Rules). Participants' scores and ranks on the Competition Website at any given stage of the Competition will be based on the objective statistical evaluation metric described on the Competition Website, as determined by applying the predictions in the Submission to the ground truth of a validation dataset whose instances were a fixed set sampled from the Data. Scores displayed on the public leaderboard while the competition is running may or may not be the same as the final scores on the private leaderboard, depending on how samples from the Data are used for evaluation. For that portion of the Competition evaluated qualitatively, the results will be determined by a panel of judges, as more fully described on the Competition Website. As more fully described on the Competition Website, the Competition may have a quantitative winner, a qualitative winner, a combined quantitative and qualitative winner, or all three.
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Data use and code sharing
DATA. "Data" means the data or datasets linked from the Competition Website for the purpose of use by Participants in the Competition. For the avoidance of doubt, Data is deemed for the purpose of these Competition Rules to include any prototype or executable code provided to Participants by DrivenData or via the Competition Website. Participants must use the Data only as permitted by these Competition Rules and any associated data use rules specified on the Competition Website.
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Limitations of liability
By participating in the Competition, each Participant agrees that: (1) any and all disputes, claims, and causes of action arising out of or in connection with the Competition, or any prize awarded, shall be resolved individually without resort to any form of class action; (2) any claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, including costs associated with entering the Competition, but in no event attorney's fees; and (3) under no circumstances will a Participant be permitted to obtain any award for, and each Participant hereby waives all rights to claim, punitive, incidental or consequential damages and any and all rights to have damages multiplied or otherwise increased and any other damages, other than damages for actual out-of-pocket expenses.
DrivenData, Inc., Competition Sponsor, and the employees, officers, directors, shareholders, agents, representatives, affiliates, subsidiaries, and advertising, promotional and legal advisors thereof (collectively, the “Released Parties”) are not responsible and shall not be liable for: (i) late, lost, delayed, damaged, misdirected, incomplete, illegible, or unintelligible entries; (ii) telephone, electronic, hardware, or software program, network, Internet, or computer malfunctions, failures, or difficulties; (iii) errors in transmission; (iv) any condition caused by events beyond the control of the Released Parties that may cause the Competition to be disrupted or corrupted; (v) any injuries, losses, or damages of any kind caused by a prize or resulting from acceptance, possession, or use of a prize, or from participation in the Competition (however (but only if required by law in your jurisdiction), this release and hold harmless commitment does not apply to cases of bodily injury or loss of life to the extent that any death or personal injury is caused by the negligence of DrivenData, Competition Sponsor, or other third parties, where liability to the injured party cannot be excluded by law); or (vi) any printing or typographical errors in any materials associated with the Competition.
Disclaimer of Warranties
You understand that we cannot and do not guarantee or warrant that the Data or other files available for downloading from the internet or the Competition Website will be free of viruses or other destructive code. You are responsible for implementing sufficient procedures and checkpoints to satisfy your particular requirements for anti-virus protection and accuracy of data input and output, and for maintaining a means external to our site for any reconstruction of any lost data. RELEASED PARTIES WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE CAUSED BY A DISTRIBUTED DENIAL-OF-SERVICE ATTACK, VIRUSES OR OTHER TECHNOLOGICALLY HARMFUL MATERIAL THAT MAY INFECT YOUR COMPUTER EQUIPMENT, COMPUTER PROGRAMS, DATA OR OTHER PROPRIETARY MATERIAL DUE TO YOUR USE OF THE WEBSITE OR ANY SERVICES OR ITEMS OBTAINED THROUGH THE WEBSITE OR TO YOUR DOWNLOADING OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON IT, OR ON ANY WEBSITE LINKED TO IT.
YOUR USE OF THE COMPETITION WEBSITE, ITS CONTENT AND ANY SERVICES OR ITEMS OBTAINED THROUGH THE WEBSITE AND RECEIPT OF ANY PRIZES IS AT YOUR OWN RISK. THE WEBSITE, ITS CONTENT AND ANY SERVICES OR ITEMS OBTAINED THROUGH THE WEBSITE ARE PROVIDED ON AN “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS, WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, BEYOND ANY NON-EXCLUDABLE GUARANTEES (DEFINED BELOW). NEITHER THE RELEASED PARTIES NOR ANY PERSON ASSOCIATED WITH RELEASED PARTIES MAKES ANY WARRANTY OR REPRESENTATION WITH RESPECT TO THE COMPLETENESS, SECURITY, RELIABILITY, QUALITY, ACCURACY OR AVAILABILITY OF THE COMPETITION WEBSITE. WITHOUT LIMITING THE FOREGOING, NEITHER RELEASED PARTIES NOR ANYONE ASSOCIATED WITH THE RELEASED PARTIES REPRESENTS OR WARRANTS THAT THE COMPETITION WEBSITE, ITS CONTENT OR ANY SERVICES OR ITEMS OBTAINED THROUGH THE WEBSITE WILL BE ACCURATE, RELIABLE, ERROR-FREE OR UNINTERRUPTED, THAT DEFECTS WILL BE CORRECTED, THAT OUR SITE OR THE SERVER THAT MAKES IT AVAILABLE ARE FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS OR THAT THE COMPETITION WEBSITE OR ANY SERVICES OR ITEMS OBTAINED THROUGH THE WEBSITE WILL OTHERWISE MEET YOUR NEEDS OR EXPECTATIONS.
NOTHING IN THESE COMPETITION RULES LIMITS, EXCLUDES, OR MODIFIES OR PURPORTS TO LIMIT, EXCLUDE, OR MODIFY ANY STATUTORY CONSUMER GUARANTEE OR ANY IMPLIED CONDITION OR WARRANTY, THE EXCLUSION OF WHICH FROM THESE COMPETITION RULES WOULD CONTRAVENE ANY STATUTE OR CAUSE ANY PART OF THESE TERMS TO BE VOID (“NON-EXCLUDABLE GUARANTEES”). SUBJECT TO THE LIMITATIONS IN THE PRECEDING SENTENCE AND TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY ANY MANDATORY PROVISIONS OF APPLICABLE LAW, THE RELEASED PARTIES HEREBY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, WHETHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, STATUTORY OR OTHERWISE, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, NON-INFRINGEMENT AND FITNESS FOR PARTICULAR PURPOSE.
THE FOREGOING DOES NOT AFFECT ANY WARRANTIES WHICH CANNOT BE EXCLUDED OR LIMITED UNDER APPLICABLE LAW.
Governing Law and Jurisdiction
DrivenData shall be the sole interpreter of these Competition Rules.
All matters relating to the Competition Rules or the Competition and any dispute or claim arising therefrom or related thereto (in each case, including non-contractual disputes or claims), shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the internal laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts without giving effect to any choice or conflict of law provision or rule (whether of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or any other jurisdiction).
The invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of these Competition Rules shall not affect the validity or enforceability of any other provision. In the event that any provision is determined to be invalid or otherwise unenforceable or illegal, these Competition Rules shall otherwise remain in effect and be construed in accordance with their terms as if the invalid or illegal provision was not contained herein.