Tom Painter

  • NASA Airborne Snow Observatory, UCLA

    Tom Painter

    Thomas H. Painter is a Principal Scientist and Scientist V at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology and a Research Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. His areas of interest are snow hydrology, water resources applications from mountain snow and ice, radiative impacts of light-absorbing impurities on snow and glacier melt, and multisensor remote sensing of snow properties.  He is the Principal Investigator of the JPL Airborne Snow Observatory, an integrated imaging spectrometer and LiDAR system to give the first-ever comprehensive, near real-time maps of snow water equivalent and snow reflectivity in mountain basins.  He is also Co-Investigator on the NASA Earth Venture Instrument EMIT, an imaging spectrometer to fly on the ISS in 2022 to explore mineralogy of and radiative forcing by desert dust. Dr. Painter has pioneered our understanding of the impacts of dust emission from land use change on snow and ice cover in mountain systems and the hydrologic response and impacts of black carbon on regional glaciation in the Anthropocene.  He has also developed cutting edge remote sensing and field models for snow properties from multispectral to imaging spectrometer sensors, scanning lidar systems, and radar systems. His efforts resulted in the development of the NASA Western Water Applications Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the establishment of the Surface Biology and Geology imaging spectrometer measurement concept in the 2017 National Academies Earth Science Decadal Survey. Dr. Painter is Past-President of the Cryosphere Focus Group of the American Geophysical Union.  In 2018, he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal and the Bureau of Reclamation’s John W. Keys III Award.


  • Schneider, Dominik, Noah P. Molotch, Jeffrey S. Deems, and Thomas H. Painter (2021). Analysis of Topographic Controls on Depletion Curves Derived from Airborne Lidar Snow Depth Data. Hydrology Research52 (1): 253–65.

  • Painter, T.H., S.M. Skiles, J.S. Deems, W.T. Brandt, and J. Dozier (2018). Variation in Rising Limb of Colorado River Snowmelt Runoff Hydrograph Controlled by Dust Radiative Forcing in Snow. Geophysical Research Letters.   doi: 10.1002/2017GL075826

  • Bryant, A., T. H. Painter, J. S. Deems, and S. M. Bender (2013). Impact of dust radiative forcing in snow on accuracy of operational runoff prediction in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 40, 3945-3949,   doi: 10.1002/grl.50773
  • Deems, J.S., T. H. Painter, J. J. Barsugli, J. Belnap, and B. Udall (2013). Combined impacts of current and future dust deposition and regional warming on Colorado River Basin snow dynamics and hydrology. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 4401-4413,
  • Steenburgh, W. J., K. T. Redmond, K. E. Kunkel, N. Doesken, R. R. Gillies, J. D. Horel, M. P. Hoerling, and T. H. Painter (2013). Present Weather and Climate: Average Conditions. In Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States: A Report Prepared for the National Climate Assessment, edited by G. Garfin, A. Jardine, R. Merideth, M. Black, and S. LeRoy, 56–73. A report by the Southwest Climate Alliance. Washington, DC: Island Press.

  • Painter, T. H., S. M. Skiles, J. S. Deems, A. C. Bryant, and C. C. Landry (2012). Dust radiative forcing in snow of the Upper Colorado River Basin: 1. A 6 year record of energy balance, radiation, and dust concentrations. Water Resources Research, 48: W07521.   

  • Skiles, S. M., T. H. Painter, J. S. Deems, A. C. Bryant, and C. C. Landry (2012). Dust radiative forcing in snow of the Upper Colorado River Basin: 2. Interannual variability in radiative forcing and snowmelt rates. Water Resources Research, 48: W07522.

  • Painter, T. H., J. S. Deems, J. Belnap, A. F. Hamlet, C. C. Landry, and B. Udall (2010). Response of Colorado River Runoff to Dust Radiative Forcing in Snow. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(40): 17125-17130.   

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