How much water is locked up in snow north of the border waiting to flow down the Souris-Mouse River Basin?
That's the question National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration is answering this week.
Flight crews conducted an aerial scan using some very high tech equipment Wednesday.
Shaun Sipma was with them and has more on the process.
On board the NOAA Twin Otter - Twin Engine turboprop airplane, Lieutenant John Rossi and Officer Michael Hirsch and I set out Wednesday to get the latest snap shot of snow and water north of the border in the Souris River Basin that feeds the Mouse River that runs through North Dakota.
(Lt. John Rossi, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) "Alright we're switching from United States aeronautical charts to Canadian aeronautical charts."
(Lt. John Rossi, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) "We collect airborne gamma radiation data and provide soil moisture and snow water equivalent values."
To do that, this high tech black box comes into play.
(Lt. John Rossi, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) It contains five crystals and various electronics and a processing unit that collects background gama radiation from the top 8 inches of the soil process it and gives the pilots soil moisture and snow water equivalent values.
The areas the team surveys are geographically and hydrologically important.
(Lt. John Rossi, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) "As you can see the flight lines are basically laid out covering the basin that the hydrologists believe will give them a good image of the surrounding area.
Each Survey line is ten miles long and 1,000 feet wide giving the pilots the ability to collect a 2 to 3 square mile area of data.
Areas that, when the snow melts, will likely drain directly into the Souris-Mouse River.
(Lt. John Rossi, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) "Alright Saskatchewan 302 is the first line we're flying it westbound."
While Officer Hirsch pilots the plan, Lt. Rossi is navigating, communicating with any air-craft or airports in their flight area, watching for potential threats which includes towers and birds as the plane flies 500 feet during a scan.
He's taking high resolution pictures to attach to a specific area to give hydrologists a visual look and also taking notes and logging the information.
(Lt. John Rossi, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) "So the value on that last one was 14.21 centimeters.
-stand-(Shaun Sipma, KX News) "An once the data is collected from the dozens of scans that information is taken back and uploaded so an official forecast and outlook can be issued by hydrologists.
(Lt. John Rossi, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) "And that allows them to create real-time models."
That survey & forecast then is often released with 24 hours of the actual survey flight.
With no new snow and little to no melting taking place in the survey area, the data gives those controlling the dams in Canada and the US along the Souris-Mouse River a solid picture of what kind of melt water to expect that translates into potential flood threat once the weather warms up.
In Saskatchewan Canada, Shaun Sipma KX News.