Airborne LiDAR and hyperspectral mapping of snow depth and albedo in the Upper Colorado River Basin, Colorado, USA by the NASA JPL Airborne Snow Observatory

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Jeffrey S Deems, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States and Thomas H Painter, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
Operational hydrologic simulation and forecasting in snowmelt-dominated watersheds currently relies on indices of snow accumulation and melt from measurements at a small number of point locations or geographically-limited manual surveys. These data sources cannot adequately characterize the spatial distribution of snow depth/water equivalent, which is the primary determinant of snowpack volume and runoff rates.

The NASA JPL Airborne Snow Observatory’s airborne laser scanning system maps snow depth at high spatial and temporal resolutions, and is paired with a hyperspectral imager to provide an unprecedented snowpack monitoring capability and enabling a new operational paradigm. We present the initial results from this new application of multi-temporal LiDAR and hyperspectral mapping. During the snowmelt seasons of 2013 and 2014, the ASO mapped snow depth and albedo in the Uncompahgre River Basin in Colorado’s Upper Colorado River Basin on a nominally monthly basis. These products enable an assessment and comparison of spatial snow accumulation and melt processes in two years with very different snowmelt hydrographs.