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Field investigation of near-surface metamorphism of snow

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Buried surface hoar and near-surface faceted crystals are known to lead to deadly avalanches. Over the course of three winter seasons a field investigation detailing the environmental conditions leading to the formation of these crystals was performed. Weather stations on north- and south-facing aspects were established. The weather data were accompanied by detailed daily observations and grain-scale photographs of the snow surface. During the three seasons, 35 surface hoar and 47 near-surface facets events were recorded. The mean weather conditions for the entire dataset (all three seasons and both stations) were compared to the nights when surface hoar formed. The comparison yielded five parameters that were statistically linked to the formation of surface hoar: incoming longwave radiation, snow surface temperature, wind velocity, relative humidity and the air/snow temperature difference. A similar comparison between the daytime mean values for all days with near-surface facet events revealed three parameters with statistically significant differences. Thus, these parameters (short- and longwave radiation and relative humidity) could be statistically linked to facet formation. This research also suggests that environmental conditions in the daytime hours before and after surface hoar formation are statistically similar to the conditions causing nearsurface facet formation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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