Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020MT127B

Student Fellowship: Developing the first river ice mapping tool for the Yellowstone River

Institute: Montana
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $2,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: Not available

Principal Investigators: Ross Palomaki

Abstract: Background: Seasonal river ice has a profound hydrologic impact on river dynamics and downstreamsocial and ecological systems [1]. The economic impacts of river ice in North America are estimated at$250 million annually [2]. River ice is of particular concern in the Greater Yellowstone region, whereflooding triggered by ice jams on the Yellowstone River damages valuable rangeland in rural communities,destroys bridges and other infrastructure, and threatens riparian ecosystems.Despite their hydrologic, ecologic, and economic importance river ice dynamics are poorly understood[1], especially on narrow continental rivers like the Yellowstone. The processes governing river iceformation involve complex interactions between energy fluxes, channel characteristics, and othermeteorologic and hydrologic factors, making river ice challenging to model and forecast [3]. However,real-time maps of river ice can help water resource managers and forecasters make timely decisionsregarding wintertime flooding and community safety.Research questions: The proposed research will develop a real-time mapping tool for river ice andproduce the first estimates of ice volume on the Yellowstone River by answering the following questions:1. What spatial and temporal scales are most practical for detecting river ice on the YellowstoneRiver using satellite imagery?2. Can aerial photography obtained by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) estimate river ice volumeand improve the accuracy of satellite-based mapping?The river ice mapping tool will be of value to the water resource science and management communitiesin the Greater Yellowstone watershed and elsewhere where river ice influences hydrologic regimes.Additionally, these techniques will be applied to subsequent research to better understand and predictthe seasonal breakup of river ice in the study area. This body of knowledge does not currently exist, andthe proposed research will provide novel scientific insights.