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Using structure from motion photogrammetry to examine glide snow avalanches

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Abstract

Structure from Motion (SfM), a photogrammetric technique, has been used extensively and successfully in many fields including geosciences over the past few years to create 3D models and high resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) from aerial or oblique photographs. SfM has recently been used in a limited capacity in snow avalanche research and shows promise as a tool for broader applications. In this study, we used SfM to examine glide avalanches along the Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) corridor in Glacier National Park (GNP), Montana. Glide avalanches pose substantial hazard to railroads, highways, and other infrastructure in many avalanche prone regions around the world, and yet basic measurements of crown depth and ground/snow interface can be hard to observe. Along the GTSR, glide avalanches can impact worker and public safety, but accessing glide avalanche crowns or glide cracks is often prohibited by inaccessible terrain or residual avalanche hazard. We used SfM techniques to derive high resolution DEMs for four glide avalanches that occurred in the spring of 2016. This allowed us to estimate selected full depth glide avalanche dimensions without visiting the site. However, our analysis was limited to qualitative assessments of the glide avalanche dimensions as the high resolution coordinates necessary to analyze the vertical dimension of avalanche crowns were not available. Despite this, our results suggest SfM can be a robust tool for examining glide avalanche crowns and of sufficient resolution to accurately characterize glide avalanche dimensions. Under a warming and more variable future climate, glide avalanches could become a more prevalent problem, and using SfM as a tool to help characterize glide avalanches over a larger spatial area will help us to better document and further understand these phenomena.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Using structure from motion photogrammetry to examine glide snow avalanches
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher International Snow Science Workshop
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 5 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop
First page 12
Last page 16
Conference Title International Snow Science Workshop
Conference Location Breckenridge, CO
Conference Date October 3-7, 2016