Monitoring cornice dynamics and associated avalanche activity with a terrestrial laser scanner

Hancock, H., Prokop, A., Eckerstorfer, M., Borstad, C., & Hendrikx, J. (2018). Monitoring cornice dynamics and associated avalanche activity with a terrestrial laser scanner. Proceedings, International Snow Science Workshop, Innsbruck, Austria.

This research focuses on snow cornices, which are overhanging projections of snow formed by wind deposition in mountainous areas. These cornices can pose avalanche hazards when they fail and trigger slab avalanches, as they often do. Despite efforts to mitigate these hazards, there is limited research on cornice dynamics, especially in areas without active mitigation strategies. This study uses terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) technology to monitor cornice development, failure, and associated avalanche activity in central Spitsbergen, Norway, over two winter seasons. The objectives of the study are to illustrate cornice processes using TLS data and investigate the effect of topographical and meteorological factors on cornice dynamics and avalanche activity.

Data collection involved multiple scans over the 2016/17-2017/18 winter seasons to capture the development, deformation, and failure of the snow cornices. The TLS scans were conducted from the same location and with good visibility using a Riegl VZ-6000 laser which were georeferenced and resampled to a 0.10 m grid.

The TLS was able to capture the development and failures of multiple cornices over the course of the study, some of which resulted in slab avalanches on the slopes below. Their research highlighted the importance of differentiating between accretion-induced mid-season failures and temperature-induced failures near the end of the snow season for forecasting cornice failure. It also suggests that snow available for transport, downslope deformation, and temperature changes are critical factors to consider. The study also provides insights into avalanche activity following cornice failure.

Overall, the study highlights the use of TLS technology to observe and understand cornice processes, which contribute to better forecasting and mitigation strategies for cornice-related avalanche hazards. If cornices that consistently form above transportation corridors and residential areas are monitored, authorities can better mitigate against the threats they pose. This research is helpful to me because it is one of the few articles that looks specifically into cornice formations, which are an important