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Snowpack, Wildfires and Lidar

image of Dr. Brian Menounos measuring snowpack

Researchers at the Hakai Cryosphere Node are revolutionizing the way we measure snowpack and are gaining a better understanding of how wildfires influence the melting of the province’s glaciers.

From an article in VIU by Rachel Stearn.

The Hakai Cryosphere Node is a collaboration between the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), Vancouver Island University (VIU) and the Hakai Institute. The Hakai Cryosphere Node is located at UNBC and led by Geography Professor Dr. Brian Menounos, and Dr. Bill Floyd, a Research Hydrologist with the BC Ministry of Forests and a VIU Geography Adjunct Professor.

The researchers have been working on this project since 2018 when the Tula Foundation funded the Hakai Cryosphere Charter. It funded a five-year project to understand the role seasonal snow cover and glaciers play in the hydrology of key watersheds along BC’s Central and Southern Coast.

“We had some fundamental questions about how important seasonal snow is in the total water budget. How important are glaciers in terms of runoff or headwater streams? And how these natural resources, these frozen reservoirs, are changing through time and can we come up with better ways to estimate the total volume or what is often referred to as the total mass of water contained within the seasonal snow and glaciers themselves,” said Menounos.

Researchers are using a plane equipped with LiDAR (a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges, or variable distances, to the Earth). The plane flies over watershed areas to get two sets of measurements. The plane is used when there is no snow, a bare Earth measurement, and again for a second measurement when there is snow on the ground. Researchers can subtract them from each other and get an estimate of snow depth.

“You can create very detailed 3-D models of the Earth’s surface. It’s a massive advancement in our ability to measure snow,” said Floyd.

For the complete article on snowpack CLICK HERE.

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