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Changes in the shear strength and micro-penetration hardness of a buried surface-hoar layer

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We investigated a buried surface-hoar layer using the SnowMicroPen (SMP), an instrument designed to measure detailed snowpack profiles. We collected data from two adjacent parts of a slope 6 days apart. In addition, one manual snowpack profile was sampled each day, as well as 50 quantified loaded column tests (QLCTs) which provided an index of shear strength. For the SMP data, a 900 m2area was sampled on both days in a grid with points 3 m apart, with some sub-areas of more closely spaced measurements. We collected 86 SMP profiles on the first day and 129 on the second day. Our analyses involved manually locating layer boundaries and calculating statistics for the force signal through the surface-hoar layer. The shear strength index increased by 40% between the two sampling days, but the SMP data show no statistical difference in layer thickness, and the mean, minimum, median, and a variety of percentile measures of the SMP force signal through the layer also do not change. Interestingly, the maximum hardness, and the variance and coefficient of variation of the SMP signal, increased. Since the small SMP tip might only break one or a couple of bonds as it passes through the weak layer, we interpret these changes as being indicative of increasing bond strength. Though we cannot specifically tie the increasing maximum hardness of the SMP signal to our QLCT results, our work suggests that the maximum SMP signal within buried surfacehoar layers may be useful for tracking increases in the shear strength of those layers.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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