Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
Research article
23 May 2016
Research article |  | 23 May 2016

Mapping snow depth in alpine terrain with unmanned aerial systems (UASs): potential and limitations

Yves Bühler, Marc S. Adams, Ruedi Bösch, and Andreas Stoffel

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Cited articles

Basnet, K., Muste, M., Constantinescu, G., Ho, H., and Xu, H.: Close range photogrammetry for dynamically tracking drifted snow deposition, Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 121, 141–153,, 2015.
Bavay, M., Lehning, M., Jonas, T., and Löwe, H.: Simulations of future snow cover and discharge in Alpine headwater catchments, Hydrol. Process., 23, 95–108, 2009.
Bilodeau, F., Gauthier, G., and Berteaux, D.: The effect of snow cover on lemming population cycles in the Canadian High Arctic, Oecologia, 172, 1007–1016, 2013.
Bühler, Y., Marty, M., Egli, L., Veitinger, J., Jonas, T., Thee, P., and Ginzler, C.: Snow depth mapping in high-alpine catchments using digital photogrammetry, The Cryosphere, 9, 229–243,, 2015a.
Bühler, Y., Meier, L., and Ginzler, C.: Potential of operational, high spatial resolution near infrared remote sensing instruments for snow surface type mapping, IEEE Geosci. Remote S., 12, 821–825, 2015b.
Short summary
We map the distribution of snow depth at two alpine test sites with unmanned aerial system (UAS) data by applying structure-from-motion photogrammetry. In comparison with manual snow depth measurements, we find high accuracies of 7 to 15 cm for the snow depth values. We can prove that photogrammetric measurements on snow-covered terrain are possible. Underlaying vegetation such as bushes and grass leads to an underestimation of snow depth in the range of 10 to 50 cm.