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hiSNOW - High resolution monitoring and modelling under Climate Change condition-Combining ALS and TLS data acquisition with energy and mass balance modelling at Hochjochferner/Val Senales, Italy Objectives Description Background Objectives The overall purpose of the hiSNOW research project is to improve our understanding of the effects of the ongoing climate change on the Alpine glaciers and snow cover, based on high resolution spatial and temporal remote sensing data as well as snow hydrological simulations. The results of hiSNOW will help us to assess the effects of melting glaciers and snow on the natural and economic environment, to identify the relationships between ALS and TLS, to determine the vertical ice flow motion components. Moreover, the project will better parameterize and further develop the mass and energy balance model AMUNDSEN to the needs of working on the South Tyrolean mountain regions.
The primary research objectives in hiSNOW are:
- Temporal and spatial high resolution quantification of both snow cover and glacier evolution
- Separation of mass balance and vertical flow motion components as main processes affecting the glacier surface topography (surface topography difference)
- Application of TLS (Terrestrial Laser Scanning) for a semi-automatic monitoring of snow and ice surface types, e.g. as basis of
improved management of glacier ski resorts
- High resolution comparison of ALS (Airborne Laser Scanning) and TLS data
- Parameterization and further development of AMUNDSEN (glacier flow motion components)
To reach these primary project objectives a combination of airborne and terrestrial high resolution remote sensing methods will be
applied. To acquire terrestrial LiDAR data it is important to find an easy and permanently accessible research object. The ideal subject of investigation for the proposed project is the Hochjochferner (HJF) in the South Tyrolean Ötztal Alps. This glacier is accessible via the Schnalstal glacier ski resort by cable cars, skis and skidoos during the winter period and by cable car and 4 WD car during the summer period.
This glacier has a suitable shape and size and is barely debris covered.
Another important objective of hiSNOW is to intensify the cooperation between the project partners. Differentiated by the professional priorities of the participating research groups and public institutions considerable synergy effects will arise. A deeper process understanding especially of the effects of climate change on the glaciated Alpine region will foster the transnational cooperation in the joint development of management options and adaptation strategies.
A central and important task in the proposed project is the combination of the laser scanning data time series with the energy and mass balance model AMUNDSEN. This should result in an improved description of the surface types in the model, and help to parameterize a glacier flow module for future scientific projects.
The resulting synergy effects (thematic deepening, expansion and better understanding of the data base and the glacier/snow cover development as well as the advancement of monitoring methods) foster the understanding of climate-induced response of the Alpine glaciers and snow cover.
The methods developed in the project are the basis for a thorough monitoring and modelling of the Alpine glacier ice and snow cover, which is under light of current and future temperature rise of particular importance to South Tyrol and its economy.
Description The hiSNOW project is proposed to last 24 month and is divided into 6 work packages (WP).
WP1, WP2 and WP5 will be led by the Institute of Geography of the University of Innsbruck with responsibilities in the climate and cryospheric research group. WP3 will be led by the Institute of Geography in cooperation with the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics of the University of Innsbruck, WP4 will be led by the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics and WP6, with the improvement and application of the AMUNDSEN model, will be led by the Department of Geography and Regional Science of
the University of Graz.
WP1: Project management
WP2: Database management
WP3: Data collection
WP4: Glacier measurements
WP5: LS differatation analysis
WP6: Parameterization of AMUNDSEN

The EURAC Institute for Applied Remote Sensing will mainly contribute to WP3. The main activities will be to provide snow cover maps with daily resolution by moderate resolution satellite data from MODIS data.
From this data, snow cover duration will be delineated. Additionally, high resolution snow cover maps from Landsat data for selected time slots will be elaborated.
Background The cryosphere of mountain regions is highly sensitive to Global Climate Change.
Both the retreating glaciers and a reduced snow coverage demonstrate the effects of the observed temperature rise within the last decades in a visibly impressive way.
Changes in glacier surface topography are attributable to mass balance fluctuations induced by climatic influences or flow motion. The vertical components of this flow motion are submergence (downwards) in the accumulation area, and emergence (upwards) in the ablation area. The separation of accumulation/ablation balance and these two vertical motion components is the scientific goal of the proposed project hiSNOW.
As a new method, we will combine temporally and spatially high resolution detection of surface changes with the modelled mass balance. The difference of the two resulting surface topographies represents the vertical motion components. Mapping of the Alpine snow cover and glaciers has made great progress in the recent decades and results were published i.e. in extremely accurate and efficient inventories of glaciers and snow coverage (Knoll and Kerschner, 2009, Lambrecht and Kuhn, 2007). In addition to traditional remote sensing methods new high resolution terrestrial or airborne methods to obtain large glacier or snow covered areas are becoming increasingly important. High resolution digital terrain models derived from LiDAR data (Light Detection And Ranging) allow new possibilities in terms of analyzing and comparing time-series of surface topographies (area or volume changes, deformation, displacement).
On the modelling side, we can today rely on detailed, physically-based process models for the accumulation, ablation and lateral
redistribution of snow and ice. E.g., AMUNDSEN (Alpine MUltiscale Numerical Distributed Simulation ENgine) produces hourly
output of all the respective process variables with high spatial resolution and has proved its accuracy in the description of the surface
energy and mass balance in many applications already.
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