CBC has profiled CH’s use of small remotely-piloted aerial systems to obtain detailed imagery of mountain terrain and snowpack on The National and its website.
By gathering large numbers of overlapping high-resolution pictures from the ‘drone’, detailed three-dimensional models of the land surface may be generated. Doing so at regular intervals through the winter shows how the shape of the surface changes, as snow falls and the snowpack evolves, in response to differential redistribution and ablation in settings with contrasting exposures to wind and sun.
This informs the refinement of computer models which mimic changes in the spatial distribution of snow depth, and so help to identify locations, volumes and rates of melting, and thus predict runoff. Because most river flows in this area are fed by meltwater, this in turn provides valuable information to guide monitoring of key water resources metrics, including the development of conditions likely to result in drought or flooding.
This work is part of the major new Global Water Futures network, headed from the University of Saskatchewan, and for which CH director Professor John Pomeroy is the Associate Director.