Using GIS to estimate the volume of snow and water in a drainage basin
SummaryThis activity uses field measurements and GIS to estimate the volume of water in the form of snow in a field site.
Type and level of course
I use this in a sophomore-level course in which most, but not all, students have had an introduction to GIS
Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
Minimal background in geosciences is needed. An algebra-level math background is expected.
GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
- Basics (opening, saving, adding layers, activating extensions, etc.)
- Shapefiles (editing, using the attribute table, etc.)
- Using Spatial Analyst extension
Software required for this assignment/activity:
Excel, ArcMap 9.x
Time required for students to complete the assignment:
Two three hour sessions
GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
The overall goal is to become more comfortable with using GIS as an analytical tool. More specific goals include importing x-y-z data into GIS, using the field calculator, and to recognizing the sources of potential error in the estimate of snow volume.
Other content/concepts goals for this activity
- recognition of snow as a source of runoff that is stored temporarily in the solid form
- recognition of sources of error, including biased sampling (measurements).
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
- comparison of different estimates of snow volume based on different measurement patterns and locations
- recognition of the value of sampling in a grid
Description of the activity/assignmentThis exercise is designed to show the relationship between linear, area, and volume measurements. Students measure the depth of snow in part of a small drainage basin and enter their data into a spreadsheet and then into a GIS. They use GIS to estimate the volume of snow. By combining the snow volume with a water equivalent estimate of the snowpack and a runoff coefficient, they estimate the amount of runoff from snow melt.
Determining whether students have met the goalsThe students have met the goals of the project if they successfully produce a map showing snow volumes and an estimate of the total volume of snow and a calculation of the equivalent water volume and runoff.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.
URLs and References
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment: Estimating snow volume exercise (Microsoft Word 361kB Aug10 10)
- Instructors Notes:
- Solution Set: