Tree canopy snow interception is a significant hydrological process, capable of removing up to 60% of snow from the ground snowpack. Our understanding of canopy interception has been limited by our ability to measure whole canopy water storage in an undisturbed forest setting. This study presents a relatively inexpensive technique for directly measuring snow canopy water storage using an interceptometer, adapted from Friesen et al. (2008). The interceptometer is composed of four linear motion position sensors distributed evenly around the tree trunk. We incorporate a trunk laser-mapping installation method for precise sensor placement to reduce signal error due to sensor misalignment. Through calibration techniques, the amount of canopy snow required to produce the measured displacements can be calculated. We demonstrate instrument performance on a western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) for a snow interception event in November 2011. We find a snow capture efficiency of 83 ± 15% of accumulated ground snowfall with a maximum storage capacity of 50 ± 8 mm snow water equivalent (SWE). The observed interception event is compared to simulated interception, represented by the variable infiltration capacity (VIC) hydrologic model. The model generally underreported interception magnitude by 33% using a leaf area index (LAI) of 5 and 16% using an LAI of 10. The interceptometer captured intrastorm accumulation and melt rates up to 3 and 0.75 mm SWE h−1, respectively, which the model failed to represent. While further implementation and validation is necessary, our preliminary results indicate that forest interception magnitude may be underestimated in maritime areas.
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