USGS Powell Center Working Group on Exploiting High-Resolution Topography

Sep 16, 2014

OpenTopography team members Ramon Arrowsmith and Christopher Crosby are part of a working group at the USGS Powell Center in Fort Collins, CO focused on Exploiting high-resolution topography for advancing the understanding of mass and energy transfer across landscapes: Opportunities, challenges, and needs.

The working group is meeting three times over the course of a two year period (spring and fall 2014 and summer 2015) at the Powell Center facility in Fort Collins. The goal of the Powell Center is to serve as a catalyst for innovative thinking in Earth system science research by providing the time, creative space, and computational, data manipulation and data management resources to promote synthesis of existing information and emergent knowledge. The high resolution topography working group is led by Paola Passalacqua (UT at Austin), Patrick Belmont (Utah State University), Dennis M Staley,(USGS Geologic Hazards Team), and Jeffrey D Simley (USGS National Map Program Development), with participation from approximately fifteen additional academic and USGS researchers. A summary of the working group's motivations:

One of the grand challenges of Earth Surface Science and Natural Resource Management lies in the prediction of mass and energy transfer for large watersheds and landscapes. High resolution topography (lidar) datasets show potential to significantly advance our understanding of hydrologic and geomorphic processes controlling mass and energy transfer because they represent features at the appropriate fine scale on which surface processes operate. While lidar datasets have become readily available across the United States, challenges remain in extracting accurate and objective information relevant for hydrologic and geomorphic research, modeling, and prediction, as well as watershed management. We primarily focus our efforts on river channel networks and nearchannel environments (floodplains and riparian zones), as they often represent the most critical 1% of the landscape for mass and energy transfer. The goals of the proposed project are to (i) evaluate stateof- the-art feature extraction algorithms by testing them on landscapes of different characteristics; (ii) develop guidelines directed to lidar practitioners for filtering and feature extraction as a function of dominant landscape processes; (iii) improve scalability and usability of feature extraction tools to allow their distribution as more user-friendly, national-scale, production-grade tools.

The working group is currently preparing a review paper for publication in a peer reviewed journal. Recommendations from the Powell Center group will ultimately inform future OpenTopography features and capabilities, and will help to guide how we focus our support for researchers using high-resolution topography.