Glacier and Ice Field Mapping - 2021 - Airborne Coastal Observatory

The climate of BC’s South and Central Coast makes it particularly sensitive to climate change, with comparatively warmer winters than continental environments. The BC coast’s extreme elevation gradients, however, may provide some resilience in certain watersheds with high elevations and extensive glacier coverage. Better characterization of snow and glacier coverage will improve our ability to observe long-term change, develop and improve existing hydrological models, and provide guidance to local communities who will need to adapt. A better understanding of glaciers and seasonal snow will likewise assist the oceanographic community who use freshwater flux data to model ocean currents, predict plankton blooms and assess the health of fish stocks. A primary mission of the ACO to map and monitor change to regional glaciers and basin snow cover. Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging), high-resolution imagery, and hyperspectral imagery are combined with field observations to measure changes in seasonal snow cover and glacier mass loss. Over the longer term, the Hakai coastal margin observatory establishes routine monitoring of snow inputs across British Columbia’s Mountains. The importance of snow vs. rain changes dramatically across the central coast. Snow is a fundamental input variable for watershed modelling, for understanding why watersheds across this gradient have different export characteristics, and for monitoring watershed response to changing weather and climate. The ACO based work is part of a larger initiative with ground sampling and sensor networks used the validate measurements. Hakai’s Airborne Coastal Observatory was developed to map and monitor icefields to oceans by using a combination of airborne Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging), high-resolution imagery, and hyperspectral imagery. Combined, the ACO sensors provide data to quantify changes in seasonal snow cover and glacier mass loss. The ACO is an aerial remote sensing platform used by the Hakai Institute to survey landscapes in detail. A Piper Navajo aircraft carries an array of integrated airborne mapping sensors installed to collect data in concert. The aircraft is operated and maintained by Kisik Aerial Surveys (Delta, BC).

Access and Use

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
Limitations: Appropriate credit must be given to Hakai Institute and the authors of the dataset.

Data and Resources



Dataset extent

Metadata Reference Date(s) November 25, 2022 (Publication)
April 17, 2023 (Revision)
Data Reference Date(s) April 11, 2021 (Creation)
December 31, 2021 (Publication)
Frequency of Update As Needed

Responsible Party 1
Hakai Institute
Responsible Party 2
Hakai Geospatial
  • Author
  • Custodian
  • Distributor
  • Owner
  • Point of Contact
  • Principal Investigator
  • Processor

Field Value
Ocean Variables Other
Climate Variables Snow
Scope Dataset
Status Completed
Topic Category oceans
Maintenance Note Generated from
Spatial Extent [[[-128.0, 47.86], [-112.8, 47.86], [-112.8, 55.49], [-128.0, 55.49], [-128.0, 47.86]]]
North Bounding Latitude 55.49
South Bounding Latitude 47.86
East Bounding Longitude -112.8
West Bounding Longitude -128.0
Temporal Extent
Vertical Extent
Default Locale English
Included in Data Catalogue
Included in Data Catalogue 1
Hakai Data Catalogue
Science on the Coastal Margin