Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017MT315B

Student Fellowship Project: Remote Sensing of Snowpack in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana Using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Institute: Montana
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $2,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $900

Principal Investigators: Jonathan Byers

Abstract: “Estimating the spatial distribution of snow water equivalent (SWE) in mountainous terrain, characterized by high elevation and spatially varying topography, is currently the most important unsolved problem in snow hydrology.” [1] The ability to accurately map and measure snow cover is critical in understanding and adapting to changes in precipitation patterns that supply water for 20% of Earth’s population and support vital aquatic ecosystems [2]. Even with the broad snowpack research network in the U.S., SWE measurements that inform runoff models and water management plans remain poorly quantified. This project seeks to apply a fixed wing Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) sensor platform and photogrammetry SWE measurements to increase the spatial density of high elevation snowpack measurements, with applications for basin scale SWE modeling improvement [3].