Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
Research article
09 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 09 Oct 2014

Influence of stress, temperature and crystal morphology on isothermal densification and specific surface area decrease of new snow

S. Schleef, H. Löwe, and M. Schneebeli

Abstract. Laboratory-based, experimental data for the microstructural evolution of new snow are scarce, though applications would benefit from a quantitative characterization of the main influences. To this end, we have analyzed the metamorphism and concurrent densification of new snow under isothermal conditions by means of X-ray microtomography and compiled a comprehensive data set of 45 time series. In contrast to previous measurements on isothermal metamorphism on time scales of weeks to months, we analyzed the initial 24–48 h of snow evolution at a high temporal resolution of 3 hours. The data set comprised natural and laboratory-grown snow, and experimental conditions included systematic variations of overburden stress, temperature and crystal habit to address the main influences on specific surface area (SSA) decrease rate and densification rate in a snowpack. For all conditions, we found a linear relation between density and SSA, indicating that metamorphism has an immediate influence for the densification of new snow. The slope of the linear relation, however, depends on the other parameters which were analyzed individually to derive a best-fit parameterization for the SSA decrease rate and densification rate. In the investigated parameter range, we found that the initial value of the SSA constituted the main morphological influence on the SSA decrease rate. In turn, the SSA decrease rate constituted the main influence on the densification rate.