High-resolution snow line monitoring in the Swiss alpine area

Contact: Céline Portenier
Supervisor: Stefan Wunderle (University of Bern)
Duration: Spring 2016 – Spring 2020

The snow line elevation is an important indicator of snow cover in mountainous regions. Its estimation is used, for example, as an input for hydrological modeling, avalanche forecasting, or cloud removal in satellite-based snow cover retrieval. Public webcams offer a great opportunity to analyze the small-scale variability of the snow line on a high spatio-temporal resolution. They offer unique potential for complementing satellite-derived snow information, especially under cloudy conditions or in steep mountainous terrain.

The main objective of this research project is to estimate and analyze the regional snow line in the Swiss alpine area. The estimation of the snow line elevation will be mainly based on snow cover information derived from public webcam images. We first evaluate an automatic procedure to generate webcam-based snow cover maps. Second, this procedure is extended and improved based on identified limitations and inaccuracies. Finally, we estimate the regional snow line elevations to analyze the spatio-temporal variability of the snow line in different climatic zones in the Swiss alpine area. This analysis includes also a comparison and combination with a high-resolution snow line retrieval using Sentinel-2 snow cover maps.

Schneekarte Webcam

Figure: Example of a webcam-based snow cover map used for the regional snow line analysis