What Light Detection and Ranging, Time-Lapse Photography and Snowpit Measurements tell us about the Evolution of the Boreal Snowpack

January 16, 2013 • Filed under: News — melanie.rohr

A new exciting year has begun which means our WERC seminar series is back in full swing and continues to feature exciting topics for the spring semester. Come join this week’s seminar, Friday, January 18, 2013, as Simon Filhol presents his PhD research on the interactions of snow and boreal forest vegetation as shown by LiDAR and time-lapse photography.

Friday Seminar Series

  • What: Winter Evolution of the Boreal Snowpack 2011-2012 Revealed By Terrestrial LiDAR, Time-Lapse Photography and Snowpits
  • Who: Simon Filhol
  • When: 3:30-4:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18
  • Where: 531 Duckering

During winter 2011-2012, we periodically scanned the snow surface of a boreal forest with a terrestrial LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), accompanied with time-lapse photography and snowpit measurements. The experimental site is located near Fairbanks, Alaska, a typical boreal forest underlain by permafrost with sparse black spruce, larch, willow, and dwarf birch. The LiDAR scans revealed with high accuracy (±2cm) and high resolution (<10cm) the thickening of the snowpack as well as temporal changes in snow distribution. Snow accumulated differently on and around vegetation depending on plant size relative to snow depth, plant mechanical properties, and the canopy structure (height, density). Time-lapse photography captured several spruce tree loading and unloading events. Due to the bending of the shorter, more supple shrubs, there was the formation of consistent air gap at the base of the snow. This gap decreased with time, stabilizing at about 10% of the total snow depth by the end of winter. A preliminary conceptual model synthetizing the interactions of snow and boreal vegetation is described.

Vertical slice from original point cloud through a black spruce. Each colors of dot correspond to a date of scan.

Image Left: Vertical slice from original point cloud through a black spruce. Each colors of dot correspond to a date of scan.

(Image by Simon Filhol)