Supporting, Evaluating, and Planning Avalanche Control Efforts with LIDAR-Derived Snow Depth Maps

Deems, J. S., Evanczyk, R., Vellone, D., Greene, E., Weldon, T., Finnegan, D. C., ... & LeWinter, A. (2016). Supporting, Evaluating, and Planning Avalanche Control Efforts with Lidar-Derived Snow Depth Maps. In Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop, Breckenridge, CO (pp. 205-212).

This article details the use of Terrestrial Laser Scanner (TLS) systems in collecting snow depth information for planning avalanche control work and infrastructure. Whereas the study by Peitzsch et al., (2018) utilized uninhabited aerial systems to carry a sensor, TL scanners are ground based active sensors that converts target ranges into an x, y, z 'point cloud' of coordinates and elevations. By subtracting snow-free from snow-covered elevations, this technology provides high-resolution (cm scale) maps of snow depths.

At their study locations of Arapahoe Basin and Loveland, Colorado they found that these TLS surveys could scan desired slopes in between 15-25 minutes depending on the size of the face. The resulting maps allowed snow scientists to better pinpoint where avalanche ordinances should be detonated by identifying where wind loading had occurred. Additionally, as the authors explain, the remote surveys ensured that avalanche control work could be carried out more safely because no one was required to spend time on dangerous, avalanche prone slopes to assess them.

My takeaway from this article is that Terrestrial Laser Scanning surveys are an excellent way to remotely measure snow depth and wind loading, provided you know, to a certain degree, which slope you want to collect data on. For this purpose, it seems extremely well suited for the transportation sector as well as ski resort operations for monitoring known problem slopes.