Micah Russell

and 3 more

Forests reduce snow accumulation on the ground through canopy interception and subsequent evaporative losses. To understand snow interception and associated hydrological processes, studies have typically relied on resource-intensive point scale measurements derived from weighed trees or indirect measurements that compared snow accumulation between forested sites and nearby clearings. Weighed trees are limited to small or medium sized trees and indirect comparisons can be confounded by wind redistribution of snow, branch unloading, and clearing size. A potential alternative method could use terrestrial lidar (light detection and ranging) because three-dimensional lidar point clouds can be generated for any size tree and can be utilized to calculate volume of the intercepted snow. The primary objective of this study was to provide a feasibility assessment for estimating snow interception mass with terrestrial laser scanning (TLS), providing information on challenges and opportunities for future research. During the winters of 2017 and 2018, intercepted snow masses were continuously measured for two model trees suspended from load-cells. Simultaneously, autonomous terrestrial lidar scanning (ATLS) was used to develop volumetric estimates of intercepted snow. Multiplying ATLS volume estimates by snow density estimates (derived from empirical models based on air temperature) enabled comparison of predicted vs. measured snow mass. Results indicate agreement between predicted and measured values (R2 ≥ 0.69, RMSE ≥ 0.91 kg, slope ≥ 0.97, intercept ≥ -1.39) when multiplying TLS snow interception volume with a constant snow density estimate. These results suggest that TLS might be a viable alternative to traditional approaches for mapping snow interception, potentially useful for estimating snow loads on large trees, collecting data from hazardous or remote terrain, and calibrating snow interception models to new forest types around the globe.