Profile for James Foster

Title: Emeritus
Contact: E-mail
Office Phone: 301-614-5769

Short Biography

Since 1978, Dr. James Foster has been employed as a Physical Scientist in Hydrological Sciences at NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD where he conducts research in remote sensing of snow and estimating water storage in snowpacks. Most of his research is in the microwave and visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum -- design and implementation of algorithms to estimate seasonal snow cover and snow volume. Dr. Foster received his B.S. and M.A. degrees in Geography from the University of Maryland, and his Ph.D. degree in Geography from the University of Reading in England, 1995. Jim has more than 150 publications including more than 80 refereed papers and 70 reports and conference proceeding papers. He collaborates with government, university, and industry researchers both nationally and internationally. He has been the recipient of 7 NASA Outstanding Performance Awards and or Special Act / Achievement Awards to date. His current responsibilities include acting as a Co-Principal Investigator on NASA hydrology tasks related to blending satellite-derived snow data into a daily, global product that includes information on snow cover extent, snow water equivalent and snowmelt. Though Jim’s primary research interests involve remote sensing of snow, he has also studied snow crystal structure and form using electron microscopy. Moreover, he has worked with hand-held instrumentation and airborne sensors as well.  This work is beneficial in helping to better manage water resources and in helping to better understand the possible impacts of changes in snow cover on climate.  Jim has been a field leader on several validation/calibration experiments and a participant on many others. Field programs have taken him to the Rocky Mountains, the northern plains, the upper Mid West, New England, and Alaska, as well as Antarctica, Greenland, Svalsbard, Alaska, and Canada. These programs have helped verify and quantify the accuracy of the snow retrieval algorithms and have helped lay the foundation for several space missions. In terms of educational outreach, Jim established the Science Question of the Week on Goddard’s Home Page (from 1996-2005). In 2000, he played the primary role in developing the Earth Science Picture of the Day web site. Since this time, more than 2,000 photos and accompanying captions have been posted. Dr. Foster is a member of the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (Senior Member) and the American Meteorology Society. Jim has been a member on the Oklahoma Mesonet Advisory Panel, the Hydrology Committee of the American Meteorological Society, and the Snow and Climate Working Group of the International Committee of Snow and Ice. He was president of the 1989 Eastern Snow Conference – an international body of scientists, educators, and engineers, meeting every year since 1943. Also, for the last 10 years, Jim has served on Goddard’s Scientific Colloquium Committee. Jim continues to help coordinate activities within GSFC to develop the most appropriate technology roadmap, ensuring future snow missions will be viable.


Nghiem, S., Hall D. K, Foster J. L., and Neumann G. (2014). Terrestrial Snow. In Njoku E. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Remote Sensing. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.

Liu, Y., Peters-Lidard C, Kumar S, Foster J , Shaw M, Y. Tian, and F.G. Hall (2013). Assimilating satellite-based snow depth and snow cover products for improving snow predictions in Alaska Advances in Water Resources, 54, 208–227

Frei, A., M. Tedesco, S. Lee, J. Foster, D. Hall, R. Kelly, and D. Robinson (2012). A review of current-generation satellite-based snow products Advances in Space Research.

Hall, D.K., J.L. Foster, N. DiGirolamo, and G.A. Riggs (2012). Snow cover, snowmelt timing and stream power in the Wind River Range, Wyoming Geomorphology, 137(1), 87-93

Hall, D., J.L. Foster, N.E. DiGirolamo, J.S. Barton, and G.A. Riggs (2012). Snow cover and stream discharge in the Wind River Range, Wyoming, 1970 – 2009 Proceedings of the IAHS conference,

Hall, D.K., J.L. Foster, S. Kumar, J.Y.L. Chien, and G.A. Riggs (2012). Improving the accuracy of the AFWA-NASA (ANSA) blended snow-cover product over the Lower Great Lakes region Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., 9, 1141-1161

Foster, J.L., D.K. Hall, J.B. Eylander, G.A. Riggs, S.V. Nghiem, M. Tedesco, E.J. Kim, P. Montesano, R.E.J. Kelly, K.A. Casey, and B. Choudhury (2011). A blended global snow product using visible, passive microwave and scatterometer data International Journal of Remote Sensing, 32(5), 1371-1395

Foster, J., D. Hall, and G.A. Riggs (2011). Passive microwave observations of snow on the ground following the historic February 2010 snowstorms in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area Proceedings of the SPIE meeting

Foster, J., G. Skofronick-Jackson, H. Meng, J. Wang, G. Riggs, P. Kocin, B. Johnson, J. Cohen, D. Hall, S. Nghiem, and S.V. Nghiem (2011). Passive microwave remote sensing of the historic February 2010 snowstorms in the Middle Atlantic region of the USA Hydrological Processes.

Foster, J., G. Skafronick-Jackson, H. Meng, J.R. Wang, G.A. Riggs, P.J. Kocin, B.T. Johnson, J. Cohen, and D.K. Hall (2011). Remote sensing of the historic February 2010 snow storms in the Middle Atlantic Region of the U.S.: focusing on the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area Hydrological Processes.

Cohen Judah, J.L. Foster, Matthew Barlow, Kazuyuki Saito, and Justin Jones (2010). Winter 2009–2010: A case study of an extreme Arctic Oscillation event Geophysical Research Letters, 37(L17707), 1-6

Hall, D.K., G.A. Riggs, J.L. Foster, and S.V. Kumar (2010). Development and Evaluation of a Cloud-Gap-Filled Modis Daily Snow-Cover Product Remote Sens. Environ., 114, 496-503

Hall, D.K., C. Fuhrmann, L.B. Perry, G.A. Riggs, D.A. Robinson , and J.L. Foster (2010). A Comparison of Satellite-Derived Snow Maps with a Focus on Ephemeral Snow in North Carolina Proceedings of the 67th Eastern Snow Conference

Hall, D.K., G.A. Riggs, J.L. Foster, and S.V. Kumar (2010). Development and validation of a cloud-gap filled MODIS daily snow-cover product Remote Sensing of Environment, 114, 496-503
10.1016/j.rse.2009.10.007. 2010

Tedesco, M., R. Reichle, A. Low, T. Markus, and J.L. Foster (2010). Dynamic approaches for snow depth retrieval from space-borne microwave brightness temperatures IEEE TGARS

Foster, J.L., D.K. Hall, R.E.J. Kelly, and L. Chiu (2009). Seasonal snow extent and snow mass in South America using SMMR and SSM/I passive microwave data (1979-2006) Remote Sens. Environ., 113, 291-305

Foster, J.L., D.K. Hall, and L. Chiu (2008). Seasonal Snow Extent and Snow Mass in South America Using SMMR and SMM/I Passive Microwave Data (1979-2003) Remote Sensing of Environment.

Foster, J.L., R. Kelly, A. Rango, R. Armstrong, E.F. Erbe, C. Pooley, and W.P. Wergin (2006). Use of Low-Temperature Scanning Electron Microscopy to Compare and Characterize Three Classes of Snow Cover Scanning, 28(4), 191-203

Chang C., A.T., R.E. J. Kelly, E.G. Josberger, R.L. Armstrong, J.L. Foster, and N.M. Mognard (2005). Analysis of Ground-Measured and Passive-Microwave-Derived Snow Depth Variations in Midwinter across the Northern Great Plains J. Hydrometeorol., 6, 20-33

Foster, J.L., C. Sun, J.P. Walker, R. Kelly, H. Powell, A. Chang, and J. Dong (2005). Quantifying the uncertainty in passive microwave snow water equivalent observations Remote Sens. Environ., 94, 187-203

Hall, D.K., R.E. Kelly J., J.L. Foster, and A.T. Chang C. (2005). Estimation of Snow Extent and Snow Properties Encyclopedia Hydrol. Sci., 811-830

Foster, J.L., J. Dong, R. Kelly, J.P. Walker, C. Sun, and A. Chang (2004). Identifying and Mapping Systematic Errors in Passive Microwave Snow Water Equivalent Observations XXth ISPRS Congress, 954-959

Foster, J.L., C. Sun, J.P. Walker, R. Kelly, J. Dong, and A. Chang (2004). Mapping random and systematic errors of satellite-derived snow water equivalent observations in Eurasia Proc. SPIE Int. Soc. Opt. Eng., 5568, 150-158

Kelly J., R.E., A.T. Chang C., J.L. Foster, and D.K. Hall (2004). Using remote sensing and spatial models to monitor snow depth and snow water equivalent Spatial Modeling of the Terrestrial Environment, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., 35-37

Erbe, E.R., A. Rango, J.L. Foster, E.G. Josberger, C. Pooley, and W.P. Wergin (2003). Collecting, Shipping, Storing, and Imaging Snow Crystals and Ice Grains With Low-Temperature Scanning Electron Microscopy Microscopy Res. and Technique, 62, 19-32

Kelly, R.E., A.T. Chang, L. Tsang, and J.L. Foster (2003). A prototype AMSR-E global snow area and snow depth algorithm IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., EO-1 Special Issue, 41(2), 230-242

Rango, A., J.L. Foster, E.G. Josberger, E.F. Ere, C. Pooley, and W.P. Wergin (2003). Rime and Graupel: Description and Characterization as Revealed by Low-Temperature Scanning Electron Microscopy Scan., 25(3), 121-131

Wergin, W.P., A. Rango, J.L. Foster, E.G. Josberger, E.F. Erbe, and C. Pooley (2003). Imaging and characterizing fresh and metamorphosed snow crystals with low temperature scanning electron microscopy Res. Signpost, 5, 21-55

Foster, J.L. (2002). Twisters Claw Maryland Weather Mag., 62-63

Wergin, W.P., A. Rango, J.L. Foster, E.F. Erbe, and C. Pooley (2002). Irregular Snow Crystals: Structural Features as Revealed by Low Temperature Scanning Electron Microscopy Scan., 24(5), 247-256

Wergin, W.P., A. Rango, J.L. Foster, E.F. Erbe, and C. Pooley (2002). Low Temperature Scanning Electron Microscopy of Irregular Snow Crystals Microsc Microanal., 8(2), 722-723

Hall, D.K., J.L. Foster, V.V. Salomonson, A.G. Klein, and J.Y. Chien L. (2001). Development of a Technique to Assess Snow-Cover Mapping Errors from Space IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 39(2), 432-438

Foster, J.L., D.K. Hall, A.T. Chang C., A. Rango, W. Wergin, and E. Erbe (1999). Effects of snow crystal shape on the scattering of passive microwave radiation IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 37(2), 1165-1168