Measuring and monitoring snow depth using the global positioning system

TitleMeasuring and monitoring snow depth using the global positioning system
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference1999
AuthorsElder, K., Gray M., Major P., and Nyberg C.
Conference Name67th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 67th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 1999
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationSouth Lake Tahoe, California
KeywordsGPS, Snow depths

Ski resorts need to monitor snow depth over their slopes from the start of the accumulation or snowmaking season until spring closure. There is currently no system available that provides real-time, high-resolution, high-frequency data for mapping snow over space on an operational basis. Air- and space-borne sensors either lack the spatial resolution or temporal frequency necessary for daily ski resort operations. In addition, inclement weather reduces the capabilities of sensors in the visible portion of the spectrum. We evaluated the potential of the Global Positioning System (GPS) to meet the operational needs. We used post processed kinematic GPS equipment for a static survey over a fixed transect to find the capabilities of the system to detect changes in the elevation of the snow surface through time and over space. The GPS equipment was also mounted on over-snow vehicles to determine the effect of vehicle movement on GPS accuracy. Our results suggest that GPS equipment should allow ski resorts to measure snow depth well within the study design constraints of 0.15 m.