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Influence of snow depth distribution on surface roughness in alpine terrain: A multi-scale approach


Veitinger, Jochen; Sovilla, Betty; Purves, Ross S (2014). Influence of snow depth distribution on surface roughness in alpine terrain: A multi-scale approach. The Cryosphere, 8(2):547-569.

Abstract

In alpine terrain, the snow-covered winter surface deviates from its underlying summer terrain due to the progressive smoothing caused by snow accumulation. Terrain smoothing is believed to be an important factor in avalanche formation and avalanche dynamics, and it affects surface heat transfer, energy balance as well as snow depth distribution. To assess the effect of snow on terrain, we use an adequate roughness definition. We developed a method to quantify terrain smoothing by combining roughness calculations of snow surfaces and their corresponding underlying terrain with snow depth measurements. To this end, elevation models of winter and summer terrain in three selected alpine basins in the Swiss Alps characterized by low, medium and high terrain roughness were derived from high-resolution measurements performed by airborne and terrestrial lidar. The preliminary results in the selected basins reveal that, at basin scale, terrain smoothing depends not only on mean snow depth in the basin but also on its variability. The multi-temporal analysis over three winter seasons in one basin suggests that terrain smoothing can be modelled as a function of mean snow depth and its standard deviation using a power law. However, a relationship between terrain smoothing and snow depth was not found at pixel scale. Further, we show that snow surface roughness is to some extent persistent, even in-between winter seasons. Those persistent patterns might be very useful to improve the representation of a winter terrain without modelling of the snow cover distribution. This can for example improve avalanche release area definition and, in the long term, natural hazard management strategies.

Abstract

In alpine terrain, the snow-covered winter surface deviates from its underlying summer terrain due to the progressive smoothing caused by snow accumulation. Terrain smoothing is believed to be an important factor in avalanche formation and avalanche dynamics, and it affects surface heat transfer, energy balance as well as snow depth distribution. To assess the effect of snow on terrain, we use an adequate roughness definition. We developed a method to quantify terrain smoothing by combining roughness calculations of snow surfaces and their corresponding underlying terrain with snow depth measurements. To this end, elevation models of winter and summer terrain in three selected alpine basins in the Swiss Alps characterized by low, medium and high terrain roughness were derived from high-resolution measurements performed by airborne and terrestrial lidar. The preliminary results in the selected basins reveal that, at basin scale, terrain smoothing depends not only on mean snow depth in the basin but also on its variability. The multi-temporal analysis over three winter seasons in one basin suggests that terrain smoothing can be modelled as a function of mean snow depth and its standard deviation using a power law. However, a relationship between terrain smoothing and snow depth was not found at pixel scale. Further, we show that snow surface roughness is to some extent persistent, even in-between winter seasons. Those persistent patterns might be very useful to improve the representation of a winter terrain without modelling of the snow cover distribution. This can for example improve avalanche release area definition and, in the long term, natural hazard management strategies.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:22 Jan 2015 15:53
Last Modified:24 Nov 2017 09:20
Publisher:Copernicus Publications
ISSN:1994-0416
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-8-547-2014

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