09 Dec 2021
09 Dec 2021
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Comparison of manual snow water equivalent measurements: questioning the reference for the true SWE value

Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise and Sylvain Jutras Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise and Sylvain Jutras
  • Département des sciences du bois et de la forêt, Université Laval, Quebec city (Qc), G1V 0A6, Canada

Abstract. Manual measurement of snow water equivalent (SWE) is still important today for several applications such as hydrological model validation. This measurement can be performed with different types of snow tube sampler or by a snow pit. Although these methods have been performed for several decades, there is an apparent lack of information required to have a consensus regarding the best reference for “true” SWE. We define and estimate the uncertainty and measurement error of different methods of snow pits and snow samplers. Analysis was based upon measurements taken over five consecutive winters (2016–2020) from the same flat and open area. This study compares two snow pit methods and three snow samplers. In addition to including the Standard Federal sampler (SFS), this study documents the first use of two new large diameter samplers, the Hydro-Québec sampler (HQS) and Université Laval sampler (ULS). Large diameter samplers had lowest uncertainty (2.6 to 4.0 %). Snow pit methods had higher uncertainty due to instruments (7.1 to 11.4 %), close to that of the SFS (mean = 10.4 %). Given its larger collected snow volume for estimating SWE and its lower uncertainty, we posit that ULS represents the most appropriate method of reference for “true” SWE. By considering ULS as the reference in calculating mean bias error (MBE), different snow pit methods overestimated SWE by 16.6 to 26.2 %, which was much higher than SFS (8.4 %). This study suggests that large diameter samplers are the best method for estimating “true” SWE.

Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise and Sylvain Jutras

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-354', Martin Schneebeli, 27 Dec 2021
    • AC3: 'Reply on CC1', Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise, 02 Feb 2022
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-354', Anonymous Referee #1, 31 Dec 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise, 01 Feb 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-354', Anonymous Referee #2, 10 Jan 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise, 01 Feb 2022
  • CC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-354', Charles Fierz, 02 Feb 2022
    • AC4: 'Reply on CC2', Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise, 04 Feb 2022
  • CC3: 'Comment on tc-2021-354', Nicholas Kinar, 03 Feb 2022
    • AC5: 'Reply on CC3', Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise, 09 Feb 2022

Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise and Sylvain Jutras

Maxime Beaudoin-Galaise and Sylvain Jutras


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Short summary
Our study presents an analysis of the uncertainty and measurement error of several manual measurement methods of the water equivalent of snow cover (SWE). Snow pit and snow sampler measurements were taken during five consecutive winters. Our results show that, although the snow pit is considered a SWE reference in the literature, it is a method with higher uncertainty and measurement error than large diameter samplers, considered according to our results as the most appropriate reference.