Past Events:

Data for Lunch w/Thomas Painter from Airborne Snow Observatories

Feb 25 2021

Data for Lunch Series

This event is the first in the Consortium’s Data for Lunch series, which provides an  opportunity to learn about innovative water data-related projects.



The California Data Consortium is proud to host a presentation by Thomas Painter, Ph.D. from the Airborne Snow Observatories.

Date: February 25, 2021 from 12pm – 12:55 pm

Presenter: Thomas Painter, Ph.D.

Presenter Affiliation: Airborne Snow Observatories

Please find the meeting materials above.

Meeting Agenda

• Welcome and introduction (10 mins)

• Presentation by Thomas Painter (30 mins)

• Facilitated discussion (15 mins)

Presentation Overview

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory began the Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) measurement and modeling program a decade ago to fill the void in comprehensive and timely knowledge of mountain snow water equivalent and snow albedo, the two most critical properties for accurately forecasting the magnitude and timing of snowmelt runoff.  ASO couples dual-laser scanning Lidar, imaging spectrometer, physical modeling, and unique flight planning and operations to cover entire mountain basins with each square meter of snowpack measured, several times per snow accumulation and melt seasons.  The ASO team partnered immediately with CA Department of Water Resources to address operational needs, resulting in rapid data turnaround and, in turn, unprecedented highly accurate seasonal runoff forecasts.  After 7 years, the program grew to the point of exceeding the operational limits of a NASA center.  The team then took on exclusive license of the ASO software and performed the technology transfer to a public benefit corporation (Airborne Snow Observatories, Inc.) that will implement ASO in the world’s mountains.

In this talk, Dr. Painter will speak to (1) the successes and direction forward of ASO; (2) the broad scope of the use of the repeat ASO data beyond snowpack/water resources to forest inventory and carbon load, fire characterization, water quality, river health, transportation, and recreation throughout California’s mountain system; and (3) the preliminary view of our cutting edge data archival and distribution system for ASO data (point clouds all the way to modeling outputs) being built with our strategic partner, Esri, to serve not only the ASO program but provide anchor for advanced programs such as the coming California Lidar Program.


Tom  Painter is a snow hydrologist and remote sensing specialist. He was  recruited to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech in 2010 to create  what became the NASA Airborne Snow Observatory. In 2018, he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal and the Bureau of Reclamation’s John W. Keys III Award, both for his team’s work on ASO.  In 2019, he was elected as Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. In  2019, he departed NASA/JPL to pursue the technology transfer of ASO to the operational commercial world to make true the vision of providing quantitative snow measurements and accurate snowmelt runoff forecasting around Planet Earth.

Available Materials:

  • Data-for-Lunch-with-Tom-Painter-slides.pdf