Assessing spatial and temporal snowpack evolution and melt with time-lapse photography

Bush, Caitlin
The objective of this experiment was to quantify spatial and temporal patterns of snowpack evolution and melt rates while minimizing perturbations to snowpack through the use of time-lapse photography via trail cameras. Field cameras were assessed as a method to quantify snow depths throughout the 120 ha No Name watershed at approximately 3000 m elevation in central Wyoming. RGB trail cameras were installed at three systematically chosen sites within the watershed to correlate physical and biological drivers of snow distribution. Five stakes were placed in each site in heterogeneous spots that remained in the frame of the camera. Stakes were divided into five centimeter increments, alternating black and white bars, with red bars denoting each half meter. Images were then taken at two-hour intervals over a period of three-months and analyzed with the ImageJ program. Snowpack distributions, as well as melt rates, were variable at both the plot and watershed scales. Meteorological and physical drivers, primarily topography and radiation, accounted for the greatest variability when comparing among plot across the watershed; however, LAI and soil and air temperature were the most significant drivers within plots. Snow-melt rate increased as soils and course woody debris became exposed increasing ground and soil temperature. These data will improve process model predictions of streamflow from the watershed.
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