Software Learns to Recognize Spring Thaw

Spring thaw in the Northern Hemisphere was monitored this year by an Earth-orbiting NASA spacecraft carrying a new version of software trained to recognize and distinguish snow, ice, and water from space.

While other spacecraft only capture images when they receive explicit commands to do so, for the last year Earth Observing-1 has been making its own decisions. Based on general guidelines from scientists, the spacecraft automatically tracks events such as volcano eruptions, floods and ice formation. The most recent software upgrade allows the spacecraft to accurately recognize cryosphere changes such as ice melting.

On the left, Resolute Bay seen by the Hyperion instrument aboard Earth Observing-1. On the right, a visual representation of the analysis done by JPL’s new software. Credit: NASA/JPL