NASA technology could improve river forecasting

A pilot project using NASA satellites and sensors could provide more accurate daily flow predictions for the Dungeness River.

"The project focused on the Dungeness River valley to prove it could be done; we're still in that part," said Franny White, spokeswoman for Pacific Northwest National Laboratories.

The "North Olympic Peninsula Solutions Network" started in the Dungeness to see if satellite imagery could solve watershed problems and then show others how to use NASA data to solve their own problems, she said.

The river model was developed to show how NASA technologies, including satellites, sensors and computational models, could improve short-term stream flow predictions.

The river flow forecasting model developed by Battelle is an improvement over existing models because it can provide a more up-to-date picture of the river, White said.

It relies upon snow pack and temperature data collected from satellites, as well as real-time snowpack and water data collected by various agencies.

The model's calculations can tell what kind of flow to expect - from a trickle to a deluge - on a daily and monthly basis.

Resource managers currently rely upon water gauge readings or historical data to predict total expected water volume over two to six months.

"Eventually, the project will produce a Web site with a three- to five-day forecast of river conditions. It's not at the final stages where people can log on, it still needs refinement," she said.

The Web site is being developed by Peninsula College students led by faculty member Dwight Barry.

Irrigators would be more interested in the seasonal forecast but it also could be used for recreation such fishing and kayaking and flood forecasting, White said.

The project is funded by a $1.6 million grant from NASA. More information can be found at the North Olympic Peninsula Solutions Network Web site at

Reach Brian Gawley at

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