Mapping avalanches

Chapter 3: More than just avalanches

More than just avalanches

Another important product produced from the ADS100 data are snow depth maps. By subtracting the summer Digital Surface Model (DSM) from the winter DSM, the snow depth is derived. By comparing different snow depth maps, melt rates can be calculated. The two models must match perfectly for a correct snow depth map.

Used to understand hydrology and ecology aspects, SLF researchers can determine how much water is stored in the snow or how snow affects a certain terrain with these maps.

“In areas heavily dependent on acquiring water supply from mountain snow, such as the Rockies in the United States, or electricity producers that depend on hydropower, like here at Lake Davos, understanding how much water will be forthcoming from winter to spring is crucial,” said Buehler.

Accurate snow depth measurements also help the researchers determine patterns of habitat for alpine area plant and animal life. Depending on how much snow stays from season to season can affect what types of animals will be present in the area and when the trees will begin pollination.

“Snow depth measurements in the mountains are really critical, and we must be able to get the right measurements to understand them,” said Buehler. “In alpine areas, snow coverage varies greatly in time and spatial distribution. You have different ecosystems of vegetation and wildlife depending on how long the snow remains.”

Though SLF doesn't currently have spatially continuous snow depth maps that go back far enough to determine long-term trends in snow distribution, the Institute is aiming to keep measuring long enough to accomplish this task. Currently, climate change is studied by using point measurements at stations, and the spatially continuous data allows for observation of snow depth distribution on a small scale.

As the backbone of its data collection programme, the accurate information provided by the ADS100 will certainly make larger scale study possible in the future for the region of Davos.

With a better understanding of climate change and other factors affecting snow, SLF continues to support the management of water resources and natural hazards in Switzerland and to develop sustainable solutions for mountain regions.

Back to Reporter 76 article overview

Story: Mapping avalanches
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Making informed decisions from airborne imagery
Chapter 3: More than just avalanches

Reporter 76

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