Quantifying the frequency, duration, and elevation range of fog or cloud immersion is essential to estimate cloud water deposition in water budgets and to understand the ecohydrology of cloud forests. The goal of this study was to develop a low-cost and high spatial-coverage method to detect occurrence of cloud immersion within a mountain cloud forest by using time-lapse photography. Trail cameras and temperature/relative humidity sensors were deployed at five sites covering the elevation range from the assumed lifting condensation level to the mountain peaks in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico. Cloud-sensitive image characteristics (contrast, the coefficient of variation and the entropy of pixel luminance, and image colorfulness) were used with a k-means clustering approach to accurately detect cloud-immersed conditions in a time series of images from March 2014 to May 2016. Images provided hydrologically meaningful cloud-immersion information while temperature-relative humidity data were used to refine the image analysis using dew point information and provided temperature gradients along the elevation transect. Validation of the image processing method with human-judgment based classification generally indicated greater than 90% accuracy. Cloud-immersion frequency averaged 80% at sites above 900 m during nighttime hours and 49% during daytime hours, and was consistent with diurnal patterns of cloud immersion measured in a previous study. Results for the 617 m site demonstrated that cloud immersion in the Luquillo Mountains rarely occurs at the previously-reported cloud base elevation of about 600 m (11% during nighttime hours and 5% during daytime hours). The framework presented in this paper will be used to monitor at a low cost and high spatial resolution the long-term variability of cloud-immersion patterns in the Luquillo Mountains, and can be applied to ecohydrology research at other cloud-forest sites or in coastal ecosystems with advective sea fog.
Bassiouni, M., Scholl, M.A., Torres-Sanchez, A.J., Murphy, S.F., (2017): A method for quantifying cloud immersion in a tropical mountain forest using time-lapse photography. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2017.04.010
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.