Researchers from the University of Waterloo recently digitized snow into a advanced model to better understand the impact of climate change.
‘SPLITSnow’ is a ‘light transport’ model which simulates the interaction of light with complex materials. It is a state-of-the-art and comprehensive model, giving account of different snowpack properties including water content and density. It also studies the shape and size distributions, as well as the crystalline makeup of the individual grains.
SPLITSnow enables the research team to generate crucial data for climate scientists globally. The major objective is to simulate this aspect of the ecosystem in order to acquire more knowledge regarding the environmental processes in line with the university’s goal of leading in sustainability research, innovation, and education to benefit the environment.
‘One current problem facing scientists is the greening phenomenon,’ said Gladimir Baranoski, professor of computer science. ‘Many regions of the world are seeing vegetation growth much earlier and more widely in the season cycle than they have previously, which can alter the whole balance of energy.’
Through the knowledge of how snow affects sunlight, as well as how that process varies depending on the characteristics of the snow, scientists can better predict how the presence or lack thereof of snow may affect plant growth,
‘Different wavelengths can be seen as signal for different processes affecting the growth of snow-covered plants,’ said Petri Varsa, lead author and doctoral candidate in computer science. ‘Some keep plants dormant, and some facilitate growth. Even small changes in the quantity and the quality of light propagated by snow may dramatically affect ecosystems.’
The new model is interesting because it can accurately simulate how different wavelengths of light are transmitted or blocked by snow.
While light transmission through snow is especially important to climate scientists, it is also of interest to the computer graphics industry.
‘For computer graphics artists working in the animation and video game industries, this new model could be a time-saver,’ said Varsa.
‘The computer graphics industry tends to use artists to color scenes containing snow. If we can offload some of that burden onto the computer, the artists are then free to focus on other artistic aspects that still require manual tweaking.’
By Marvellous Iwendi.