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Assessment of techniques for analyzing snow crystals in two dimensions

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Three-dimensional (3-D) snow analysis techniques provide comprehensive and accurate snow microstructure data. Nevertheless, there remains a requirement for less elaborate methods for snow characterization, as numerical snow models such as SNOWPACK are presently based on two-dimensional (2-D) grain analysis. We present a detailed assessment of various methods and shape descriptors used for snow characterization from digitized images. Dendricity, the ratio of the square of grain perimeter to its area, allows distinction between new and old snow while sphericity distinguishes between faceted and rounded grains. The concept of sphericity is based on curvature, yet another powerful shape descriptor. However, curvatures obtained from images of disaggregated snow grains depend on both resolution and methods chosen. We compared the standard parabola method with a cubic smoothing spline approach for curvature measurement. Applying both methods to parametrically generated shapes, descriptor values were compared with their analytical counterparts. The spline method was found to be able to measure a wider range of curvatures accurately, but both methods suffered from a filtering effect. Although some descriptor errors were as high as 50%, a method for effectively outlining snow grains was found. As well as assessing the classification potential of 2-D analysis on full samples, new descriptors were also investigated.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-06-01

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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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