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WWRC 85-06
Prediction of Runoff Patterns In Wyoming Using Landsat Imagery To Measure Snowcover and Estimate Runoff From Snowmelt


Snowpack has been traditionally monitored by on-site recording stations supplemented by periodic sampling for water content. Snowcover estimates from Landsat imagery can be used to effectively augment these measurements and improve water forecasts. The method used is to interpret snowcover area from a sequence of images obtained during several snowmelt seasons. The snowcover measurements are plotted against measured streamflow summed over the melt season. As cumulative runoff increases, snowcover decreases each year. The empirical relationship derived from these data is evaluated and compared to similar curves for other snowmelt seasons to derive a composite relationship that represents the "typical" pattern of snowmelt vs. runoff for each watershed. The curves derived in this fashion can be used to forecast volume and timing of runoff during the spring snowmelt, using the current Landsat imagery to assess the condition of the snowpack in a given watershed. Composite curves were compiled for each Wyoming watershed where adequate data were available for several seasons. Both the annual and composite curves are useful for predicting the expected runoff from the most recent satellite images. Dates for beginning, peak, and end of spring snowmelt can be predicted.

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