Remote Sensing of Water Resources on the Navajo Nation

NASA/Ames Research Center

Mountain View, CA, United States 🇺🇸

The Navajo Nation (NN) is the largest reservation in the US, and faces challenges related to water management during long-term and widespread drought episodes. The Navajo Nation is a federally recognized tribe, which has boundaries within Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The Navajo Nation has a land area of over 70,000 square kilometers. The Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources (NNDWR) reports on drought and climatic conditions through the use of regional Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) values and a network of in-situ rainfall, stream flow, and climate data. However, these data sources lack the spatial detail and consistent measurements needed to provide a coherent understanding of the drought regime within the Nation’s regional boundaries. The use of satellite-based remote sensing of precipitation and vegetation conditions on the NN may improve upon the ability to monitor and report drought conditions. The objectives of this study are to (1) compare in-situ rain gauge data to remotely-sensed data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) sensors and modeled data from Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station data (CHIRPS); (2) calculate precipitation anomalies on the NN through the use of in-situ and remotely-sensed data for 2000 – present, (3) generate maps of total monthly precipitation and precipitation anomalies on the NN for 2000 – present, (3) compare precipitation to vegetation indices calculated from multi-spectral sensors such as MODIS, Landsat 8, and Sentinel 2a. This study will relate to a larger project aimed at creating a web-based Drought Severity Assessment Tool (DSAT) for the NNDWR. This tool will harness the use of Google Earth Engine (GEE) to conduct drought assessments and generate reports to assist in the allocation of drought emergency relief dollars across the NN. This internship opportunity is part of the Center for Applied Atmospheric Research and Education (CAARE), a NASA-funded project led by San Jose State University (SJSU) and funded by the NASA Minority University and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) Program. The goals of the NASA MIRO Center for Applied Atmospheric Research and Education are to promote STEM literacy among all students and to enhance and sustain the capability of students from underrepresented institutions to support NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD).