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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-183
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-183
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  13 Jul 2020

13 Jul 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Macroscopic water vapor diffusion is not enhanced in snow

Kévin Fourteau1, Florent Domine2,3, and Pascal Hagenmuller1 Kévin Fourteau et al.
  • 1Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Université de Toulouse, Météo-France, CNRS, CNRM, Centre d’Études de la Neige, Grenoble, France
  • 2Takuvik Joint International Laboratory, Université Laval (Canada) and CNRS-INSU (France), Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada
  • 3Centre d’Études Nordiques (CEN) and Department of Chemistry, Université Laval, Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada

Abstract. Water vapor transport in dry snowpacks plays a significant role for snow metamorphism and the mass and energy balance of snowpacks. The molecular diffusion of water vapor in the interstitial pores is usually considered as the main or only transport mechanism, and current detailed snow physics models therefore rely on the knowledge of the effective diffusion coefficient of water vapor in snow. Numerous previous studies have concluded that water vapor diffusion in snow is enhanced relative to that in air. Various field observations also indicate that for vapor transport in snow to be explained by diffusion alone, the effective diffusion coefficient should be larger than that in air. Here we show using theory and numerical simulations on idealized and measured snow microstructures that, although sublimation and condensation of water vapor onto snow crystal surfaces do enhance microscopic diffusion in the pore space, this effect is more than countered by the restriction of diffusion space due to ice. The interaction of water vapor with the ice results in water vapor diffusing more than inert molecules in snow, but still less than in free air, regardless of the value of the accommodation coefficient of water on ice. Our results imply that processes other than diffusion, probably convection, play a preponderant role in water vapor transport in dry snowpacks.

Kévin Fourteau et al.

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Kévin Fourteau et al.

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Short summary
There has been a long controversy to determine whether the effective diffusion coefficient of water vapor in snow is superior to that in free air. Using theory and numerical modelling we show that while water vapor diffuses more than inert gases thanks to its interaction with the ice, the effective diffusion coefficient of water vapor in snow remains inferior to that in free air. This suggests that other transport mechanisms are responsible for the large vapor fluxes observed in some snowpacks.
There has been a long controversy to determine whether the effective diffusion coefficient of...
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