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Fall 2018 | State University of Idaho

POCATELLO: a research paper that uses data collected by lidar images to better measure snowbags in the mountains of the western United States. UU For the former student of geosciences at Idaho State University, Chris Tennant, received the 2017 Editor's Choice Award for publication Water Resources Research.

Only about 1 percent of articles published annually in the journal receive this recognition.

The selection by the editors of the magazine "is based on the technical meaning, novelty, originality, presentation and broader implications of the publication." The work will be highlighted at the business meeting of the Hydrology Section of the American Geophysical Union in December.

The title of Tennant's article was "Regional sensitivities of seasonal snow accumulation in elevation, appearance and vegetation cover in western North America" ​​and included three ISU geoscience teachers as co-authors, Kathleen Lohse, Sarah Godsey and Ben Crosby. It included data collected at the Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory in southwestern Idaho.

"The ability to take into account the amount of snow covering the ground in large areas has changed dramatically with the use of lidar," said Tennant. "We have gone from measuring the depth of snow in watersheds to points measuring 3 feet by 3 feet to be measured on the scale of entire basins, 50-100 square miles."

The data analyzed by Tennant were collected by airplanes that flew over the watersheds using light detection and range (lidar), which is a measurement method that measures the depth of snow using pulsed laser light. Before the use of lidar, the scientists estimated the snowpack by gluing pipes in the ground that measured the depth of the snow at several sites, and then they made assessments of the total amount of snow based on these individual sites.

"Chris's project evaluates on a foot-by-foot scale how thick the snowpack is over a large area well beyond what humans can physically go out and measure," said Crosby, who served as an advisor to Tennant at ISU. . "So now we have a continuous measure of how thick the snowpack is on a given landscape."

Most of the water in the west used for everything from municipal water supplies to irrigation and industrial uses comes from mountain snowbags. Therefore, the more accurate the snowpack measurement is, the more capable managers and others can forecast the amount of water available during the year, which is extremely important for flood control and the many uses of water. waters.

"Chris's work improves the ability to forecast the amount of water that will produce the snow of a given winter and address the sloping demands," said Crosby.

For example, in his current position for the US Corps of Engineers. In the US, Tennant uses the data collected from the lidar surveys to help determine the release of water from the Corps dams in California.

Tennant gave credit to its collaborators and to those who have collected the lidar data throughout the west for the success of its document. He and Crosby estimated that the cost was millions of dollars to collect the data analyzed in the document.

"I think it's really important to emphasize how much work has been done to generate those data sets and make them available," said Tennant. "This document would not have happened if it were not for all the work that was done."

These new snowpack datasets could also be valuable in helping to predict how climate change could affect western watersheds in the future, in part because they measure watersheds at lower and higher elevation levels than the way in which the snowbags of the basin were historically measured. This will help scientists more accurately measure the water content of regional snowbags in the future.

"This study demonstrates the usefulness of lidar surveys in the air to assess how regional physiography and climate interact to determine snow distributions at the watershed level and helps better inform how climate will affect snow and water resources. from the western United States, "Tennant states in the article.

In addition to the contingent of coauthors of the ISU, Tennant also collaborated with Adrian Harpold at the University of Nevada, Reno; Laurel Larsen, University of California, Berkeley; Paul Brooks, University of Utah; Robert Van Kirk, Humboldt State University, California; and Nancy Glenn, Boise State University.

"This is an example of the type of project enabled by the community's data resources," Crosby said. "Science is no longer done by one or two people who are killing themselves in a laboratory. Now it is typically a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional effort for projects that are trying to cross between disciplines and regions. The use of these types of datasets is an example of one of those successful projects because they are inclusive rather than exclusive. "

Tennant, a native of North Carolina who earned his bachelor's degree at Western Carolina University , he obtained his master's degree in geosciences from ISU in 2011 and his Ph.D. in geosciences in 2015. The recognized article was part of his Ph.D thesis work.Tennant now works as administrator of water control data systems for the US Army Engineering Corps in its District Office in Sacramento, California, and is completing a postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley

Information in the photo below: photo of the basin of the Salmon River in Middle Fork provided by Ben Crosby, which shows the exact type of conditions studied for this investigation: how snow cover varies with elevation, orientation and vegetation.

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