Research interests:

  • Geomorphology -- glacial landforms, rock weathering
  • Geomorphometry -- issues of scale and measurement
  • Lidar -- terrestrial and airborne landsurface mapping
  • Lightning -- lightning / landscape interactions, Colorado lightning climatology
  • Applied geography education -- developing and assessing curriculum
Colorado cloud-to-ground lightning strike density
Strokes km-2 yr-1 for State of Colorado

Recent publications:

Vogt, Brandon. and S. Hodanish. 2014. A high-resolution lightning map for the state of Colorado. Monthly Weather Review 142(7): 2353-2360.

  • Abstract: For the state of Colorado, ten years (2003 - 2012) of 1 April through 31 October cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning stroke data are mapped at 500 m spatial resolution over a 10 m spatial resolution US Geological Survey (USGS) digital elevation model (DEM). Spatially, the 12.5 million strokes that are analyzed represent ground contacts, but translate to density values that are about twice the number of ground contacts. Visual interpretation of the mapped data reveals the general lightning climatology of the state while geospatial analyses that quantify lightning activity by elevation identify certain topographic influences of Colorado's physical landscape. Elevations lower than 1829 m (6000 ft.) and above 3200 m (10 500 ft.) show a positive relationship between lightning activity and elevation while the variegated topography that lies between these two elevations is characterized by a fluctuating relationship. Though many topographic controls are elucidated through our mappings and analyses, the major finding of this paper is the sharp increase in stroke density observed above 3200 m (10 500 ft.). Topography's role in this rapid surge in stroke density, which peaks in the highest mountain summits, is not well known, and until now, was not well documented in the refereed literature at such high resolution from a long-duration dataset.

Vogt, Brandon. 2014. Visualizing summertime lightning patterns on Colorado Fourteeners. The Professional Geographer 66(1): 41-57.

  • Abstract: In the context of lightning avoidance, this article explores temporal and spatial patterns of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes to Colorado Fourteeners, the popularly summited set of mountains that exceed 4,267 meters (14,000 feet). The article describes the Fourteener concept, examines trends in lightning fatalities and injuries, and reviews thunderstorm climatology across the greater Colorado landscape. Fifteen years of summertime lightning activity at near-summit locations are examined. Three measures characterize lighting activity for fifty-four Fourteeners: i) overall strikes received, ii) lightning days, and iii) the time of day when lightning first strikes. Maps, histograms, and ranked lists identify trends and anomalies generated from the three measures. Examples of highest potential risks include Pikes Peak for Fourteener, Front Range for mountain range, and the third week of July for week of the summer. The results can help avoid lightning when making long term plans to visit Fourteeners and can heighten awareness when on Fourteeners. In addition to lightning avoidance, the article contributes to mountain geography and related atmospheric, physical, and social sciences.

Vogt, Brandon, and P. Hodza. 2013. Using Digital Earth to expose students to GIScience. Journal of Geography 112(5): 205-213.

  • Abstract: Students in US geography programs face particular challenges that may discourage them from taking advanced GIScience courses and considering geospatial careers. This paper provides a preliminary discussion of the development, delivery, and evaluation of a University of Colorado Colorado Springs sophomore-level, required geography course designed to address this concern. The course, Digital Earth (DE), introduces students to the principles, concepts, and applications of major geographic information technologies (GITs) early in their academic careers. The success of DE is evaluated by examining the extent to which the course excited students about GIScience and motivated them to take higher level elective geospatial courses. Results suggest that DE generates considerable student interest in GIScience, prepares students reasonably well for elective courses, and greatly inspires them to seek a geospatial career.

Vogt, Brandon. 2012. Terrestrial 3d laser scanners as tools to enhance undergraduate geography curriculum. Papers of the Applied Geography Conferences 35(2012):21-26.

  • Terrestrial 3D laser scanners are tripod-mounted active remote sensing instruments that generate precise digital representations of surfaces and objects. In academia, the scanners are typically used as data collection devices to support faculty research. This paper demonstrates how the scanners can also be used to support undergraduate geography curriculum by helping students conceptualize an array of fundamental geographic concepts. Based from the teaching experiences of the author, the paper outlines how scanner use can enhance a lower-division course in introductory geospatial technologies and upper-division courses in geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and geomorphology. Working with a scanner and processing and analyzing its data enables students to experience first-hand the concepts surrounding active and passive remote sensing, lidar, data interpolation, spatial and spectral resolution, raster and vector data models, 3D data, data visualization, landform mapping, geomorphometry, and landform change detection.

Cameron, N., E. Butterworth, D. Cerney, W. Gribb, K. Haynes, B. Hodge, R. Honea, and B. Vogt. 2012. Applied geography education in focus: strategic panel session. International Journal of Applied Geospatial Research 3(3):97-107.

  • Abstract: We held a panel session on Applied Geography and Education at the 2011 Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting. Each panelist presented their observations and suggestions followed by a roundtable discussion. Potential directions for enhancing Applied Geography and Education are grouped by student recruitment and retention, professionalism, career familiarization and networking, career listings, research, strategy, and internationalism.

Vogt, Brandon. 2011. Exploring cloud-to-ground lightning earth highpoint attachment geography by peak current. Earth Interactions 15(8):1-16.

  • Abstract: This study applied remotely sensed cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning strike location data, a digital elevation model (DEM), and a geographic information system (GIS) to characterize negative polarity peak current CG lightning Earth attachment behavior. It explored the propensity for (i) flashes to favor topographic highpoint attachment and (ii) striking distance (a near-Earth attachment force) to increase with peak current. On a 16 000 km2 10-m DEM covering a section of southeast and south-central Colorado, a GIS extraction method identified approximately 5000 hilltop and outcrop highpoints containing at least 15 m of vertical gain in a 300-m radius neighborhood with a minimum horizontal separation of 600 m. Flashes with peak currents ranging from -20 to -119 kiloamps (kA), collected between February 2005 and May 2009, were subdivided into 10 kA classes and mapped on this modified DEM. Buffers of 100-, 200-, and 300-m radii created around each highpoint were used to assess the hypothesis that striking distance increases with higher negative peak current. Point-in-polygon counts compared actual CG strike totals to random point totals received inside buffers. CG strikes favored topographic highpoints by as much as 5.0% when compared to random points. Chi-square goodness-of-fit tests further corroborated that actual CG strikes at highpoints were generated by a more nonrandom process. A positive trend between striking distance and peak current was also observed. Although this correlation has been characterized in controlled settings, this study is the first to document this physical process at real-world landscape scales over multiple years.

Vogt, Brandon. 2011. Colorado 14ers, pixel by pixel. International Journal of Applied Geospatial Research 2(2):17-33.

  • Abstract: This document describes a capstone learning exercise designed for undergraduates enrolled in an introductory geospatial tools course. The overarching theme of the exercise, Colorado 14ers, Pixel by Pixel, is mountain geography. While immersed in a digital mountainous landscape, students explore topics of geomorphology and geomorphometry and discover how it is possible for a summit that rises well above 14,000 feet not to qualify as a true Colorado Fourteener. To address these topics, students examine freely-available digital elevation models (DEMs) using common geospatial analysis tools. The exercise was developed with five purposes in mind: (1) students should be introduced gently to geospatial software; (2) students should enter upper-level geography courses armed with basic computer skills and a diverse geospatial toolkit; (3) students should internalize the fact that invariably digital geographic explorations are influenced by scale; (4) students of geography should be able to identify natural and anthropogenic impacts to a landscape, and; (5) to help students conceptualize what geographers do, learning exercises should include local and interesting case studies. As an exercise intended to synthesize geographic concepts covered throughout a course, the learning objectives range from grasping broad theoretical concepts related to scale and measurement to learning specific computer skills related to directory structures and file naming conventions. Deliverables of the exercise include posting four maps and answers to nine questions to a website. The outcome of the exercise is a confident, geospatial toolsavvy student who is eager to further investigate the field of geography.

Vogt, Brandon, and R. Edsall. 2010. Terrestrial laser scanning and exploratory spatial data analysis for the mapping of weathering forms on rock art panels. Geocarto International 25(5):347-367.

  • Abstract: Rock art conservators are faced with complex decisions to prioritize rock art panels for protection from destructive forces of weathering. We provide a system to facilitate such decision making that blends traditional remote sensing with interactive techniques of exploratory spatial data analysis. Our system, Mapping Weathering Forms in Three-Dimensions (3D) (MapWeF) uses a 3D laser scanning device for sub-centimetre data collection from in situ rock surfaces. After image and digital surface model processing, key rock weathering forms are highlighted through classification. Supervised classification builds training classes as a user probes known weathering forms. Guided by these training classes, the user then interactively brushes and assembles pixels from scatter plots until the user is confident that all manifestations of a particular weathering form have been mapped. The purpose of MapWeF is to construct detailed maps that highlight regions of decay on rock art panels. These maps can help rock art conservators take action on panels in need of urgent preservation or remediation.