Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
Research article
16 Dec 2016
Research article |  | 16 Dec 2016

Near-surface snow particle dynamics from particle tracking velocimetry and turbulence measurements during alpine blowing snow storms

Nikolas O. Aksamit and John W. Pomeroy

Abstract. Many blowing snow conceptual and predictive models have been based on simplified two-phase flow dynamics derived from time-averaged observations of bulk flow conditions in blowing snow storms. Measurements from the first outdoor application of particle tracking velocimetry (PTV) of near-surface blowing snow yield new information on mechanisms for blowing snow initiation, entrainment, and rebound, whilst also confirming some findings from wind tunnel observations. Blowing snow particle movement is influenced by complex surface flow dynamics, including saltation development from creep that has not previously been measured for snow. Comparisons with 3-D atmospheric turbulence measurements show that blowing snow particle motion immediately above the snow surface responds strongly to high-frequency turbulent motions. Momentum exchange from wind to the dense near-surface particle-laden flow appears significant and makes an important contribution to blowing snow mass flux and saltation initiation dynamics. The more complete and accurate description of near-surface snow particle motions observable using PTV may prove useful for improving blowing snow model realism and accuracy.

Short summary
The first implementation of particle tracking velocimetry in outdoor alpine blowing snow has both provided new insight on intermittent snow particle transport initiation and entrainment in the dense near-surface "creep" layer whilst also confirming some wind tunnel observations. Environmental PTV has shown to be a viable avenue for furthering our understanding of the coupling of the atmospheric boundary layer turbulence and blowing snow transport.