M.S. Earth Sciences, Snow Science -- Montana State University, 2009
B.A. Environmental Studies -- Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR, 2000
Ph.D. in Earth Sciences, Snow Science
Title of Research Project
Climate and Weather Influences on Avalanches and Associated Landscape Change in Northwest Montana, U.S.A.
Erich is a Physical Scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. He has worked for the USGS since 2007 studying avalanches, snow, and glaciers, and as the Director of the Flathead Avalanche Center in northwest Montana. He earned his M.S. in Earth Sciences from Montana State University (MSU) in 2009, and is currently also working on his Ph.D. at MSU. His current research focuses on avalanche frequency and magnitude and how they relate to various weather and climate processes. He is also using remote and close-range sensing to examine snow depth changes in avalanche path starting zones and relating such changes to weather patterns. When not studying the cryosphere, he spends time climbing, skiing, and running in the mountains usually chasing his two young sons.
Overall, the dissertation concentrates on the temporal activity of avalanches and contributory factors at multiple spatial resolutions. The first component of this dissertation will focus on the spatiotemporal frequency and magnitude of avalanches in northwest Montana and associated climate patterns by using a regional dendrochronological record from three different mountain ranges in northwest Montana. The second research question in this dissertation utilizes LiDAR to characterize the vegetation structure in large avalanche paths that span from alpine terrain to riparian zones. Then, using the dendrochronological record in several paths to determine return frequencies, I aim to characterize the vegetation structure and composition in those return period zones. These first two questions of the dissertation combine a relatively large spatial and temporal analysis of avalanches and their ecological effects, but also examines the contributory climate and weather patterns. The third question of the dissertation also focuses on the temporal and spatial scale of avalanche processes, but on a much shorter time period (seasonal and sub-seasonal) and smaller spatial scale. It emphasizes the change of distribution of snow depth in starting zones of avalanche paths. LiDAR and SfM will again be used as tools to examine temporal changes and spatial patterns on a weekly (or sub-weekly) scale. This work aims to examine the capability of using SfM to study avalanche processes in steep, mountainous terrain as well as to examine contributory factors of snow redistribution across several avalanche path starting zones. Since avalanche frequency and magnitude drive landscape change and composition, it is important to understand the underlying processes that lead to avalanche release. The fourth, and final, question in the dissertation also addresses avalanches as a landscape change driver. The aim is to quantify avalanche contribution to mass accumulation and balance on Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park, MT.
Publications and Other Personal Research Websites