Glaciers and Ice - 2022 - Hakai Airborne Coastal Observatory

The Airborne Coastal Observatory (ACO) is a collaborative program led by the Hakai Institute along with partners the University of Northern British Columbia. The ACO program offers rapid and accurate aerial observations of both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, from Icefields to Oceans, and applied across multiple scientific disciplines. Data is collected by a Piper Navajo aircraft equipped with an array of integrated Earth imaging systems and technology, including: 1) A Riegl VQ-780 airborne laser scanner; 2. Two PhaseOne iXU-RS 1000 digital medium format cameras; 3. Specim AisaFENIX Imaging Spectrometer; 4. Applanix Inertial Navigation System. All data is processed and maintained by the Hakai Geospatial Technology team. The aircraft is provided and maintained by Kisik Aerial Surveys Inc. (Delta, BC).

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.

For more information on post processing, data quality assurance, software used, and summary of results please contact

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) January 18, 2023 (Publication)
April 12, 2023 (Revision)
Data Reference Date(s) February 25, 2022 (Creation)
November 30, 2022 (Publication)
Frequency of Update As Needed

Responsible Party 1
Hakai Institute ROR logo
  • Author
  • Custodian
  • Distributor
  • Originator
  • Owner
  • Point of Contact
  • Principal Investigator
  • Processor
  • Publisher
  • Resource Provider
  • Editor
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  • Funder

Field Value
Ocean Variables Other
Climate Variables Snow
Scope Dataset
Status Completed
Topic Category oceans
Maintenance Note Generated from
Spatial Extent [[[-127.8, 48.1], [-113.1, 48.1], [-113.1, 56.61], [-127.8, 56.61], [-127.8, 48.1]]]
North Bounding Latitude 56.61
South Bounding Latitude 48.1
East Bounding Longitude -113.1
West Bounding Longitude -127.8
Temporal Extent
Vertical Extent
Default Locale English
  1. Geospatial
  2. Airborne Coastal Observatory
Included in Data Catalogue
Included in Data Catalogue 1
Hakai Data Catalogue
Science on the Coastal Margin