Impact of the microstructure of snow on its temperature: A model validation with measurements from Summit, Greenland

The influence of snow microstructure on thermal and radiative transfer in snow has not been thoroughly investigated as the tools necessary to efficiently measure microstructural geometry at millimeter resolution have not yet been available. Here we investigate the impact of snow microstructure on the thermal and radiative properties of snow and specifically determine the depth resolution of snow stratigraphy measurements needed to adequately model snow temperatures. To address this subject, detailed information on physical properties of the snow cover was collected at Summit, Greenland, in summer 2003. We present a new set of snow microstructure data, measured with a high-resolution penetrometer (SnowMicroPen (SMP)). The penetration resistance can be used to estimate the thickness of individual layers but also reflects the thickness and the number of bonds in the snowpack. SMP is a motor-driven, constant speed micropenetrometer acquiring 256 hardness measurements per millimeter. The data were used to describe the physical properties of snow and to compute snow temperatures in the topmost meter of the snowpack using the snow cover model SNOWPACK. The spatial resolution of the snow microstructure and the subsequent parametrization of SMP-estimated density strongly affected the modeled temperature and temperature gradients. The SMP-estimated density was used as an input to SNOWPACK and affected the thermal conductivity and radiative transfer in the snowpack. Our results thus show that highly resolved stratigraphic input data on the order of at least 1 cm are necessary to adequately simulate snow temperatures and snow metamorphism, including the observed formation of subsurface hoar in the high Arctic snow cover.


Publication status:
Authors: Dadic, R., Schneebeli, M., Lehning, M., Hutterli, M.A., Ohmura, A.

1 January, 2008
Journal of Geophysical Research / 113
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