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Sorry, Hollywood, This NASA Film Is Premiering in the Adirondacks

Image courtesy of NASA

This Saturday, January 25, NASA will present the world premiere of a new film about rain and snow at the Wild Center, in Tupper Lake. The Adirondacks in January is an unlikely setting for a movie debut, but the producer says many things about this documentary are out of the ordinary.

“We don’t need to have a New York or L.A. moment here, because the space agency extends around the country, so we thought, Why can’t we place the event where the local community can really get something out of this?” says Michael Starobin, senior producer with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA calls Water Falls “the movie that will change the way you think about rain.” Water certainly has our attention in the Adirondacks this winter. Ice, sleet and other things that come from the sky have shut down interstates, jammed rivers, and buried the western Adirondacks under many feet of powder while depriving the eastern side of snowpack. Ask any skier: too much water is falling as rain, not enough as snow.

The close relationship that Adirondackers have with water is another reason to unveil the project here, Starobin says. About 320,000 acres of the Adirondack Park are wetland, and another 350,000 acres are open water, including the Upper Hudson River.

“It’s a natural location in terms of the story we are telling,” he says. “It’s one of the nation’s headwaters for a vital watershed.”

The story centers on a multinational space mission. NASA is launching a satellite in February to help measure how much precipitation falls out of the atmosphere and how much evaporates up from the Earth’s surface. The new satellite will join a network of other instruments already in orbit and on the ground.

“We will have new maps of total rainfall quantity, total snowfall quantity and where it goes in the freshwater cycle,” Starobin says.

Climate change heightens the need to understand long-range precipitation patterns. Scientists are able to model temperature increases with a high degree of certainty. Precipitation is trickier. The expectation is that warmer temperatures will evaporate more water into the atmosphere and mobilize it as rain. But some places are getting wetter, others drier. So far, the Adirondacks appears to be slightly wetter than it was a century ago. What is more clear is that when water does fall here, more of it falls in stormy bursts than it used to, overwhelming riverbanks and road culverts, and causing floods and landslides.

Another reason NASA is premiering Water Falls in the Adirondacks is to draw attention to the Wild Center, which recently installed a spherical screen developed by NOAA, one of only 100 in the world. The nine-minute movie can be viewed only in this globe-shaped high-resolution format. “You have to see it on this exotic, spectacular screen,” Starobin says. “You cannot get it on a cell phone or laptop.”

Starobin will be on site at the Wild Center Saturday (January 25) to introduce the film for four screenings (11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m.). NASA scientist Dalia Kirschbaum will give a keynote address by Skype at 1 p.m. Admission to the Wild Center is free that day. The global release of Water Falls is January 31.

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