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Digging a snowpit on Taku Glacier, in Alaska to measure snowpack depth and density

Snowpack forms from layers of snow that accumulate in geographic regions and high elevations where the climate includes cold weather for extended periods during the year. Snowpacks are an important water resource that feed streams and rivers as they melt. Therefore, snowpacks are both the drinking water source for many communities and a potential source of flooding (in case of sudden melting). Snowpacks also contribute mass to glaciers in their accumulation zone.

Assessing the formation and stability of snowpacks is important in the study and prediction of avalanches.[1][2] Scientists study the physical properties of snow under different conditions and their evolution, and more specifically snow metamorphism,[3][4] snow hydrology (that is, the contribution of snow melt to catchment hydrology), the evolution of snow cover with climate change and its effect on the ice–albedo feedback and hydrology, both on the ground and by using remote sensing.[5] Snow is also studied in a more global context of impact on animal habitats and plant succession.[6] An important effort is put into snow classification, both as a hydrometeor[7] and on the ground.[8]

Scientific applications[edit]

Graph of changing Wyoming Snowpack

Snowpack modeling is done for snow stability, flood forecasting, water resource management, and climate studies.[9] Snowpack modeling is either done by simple, statistical methods such as degree day or complex, physically based energy balance models such as the SNOWPACK model, the CROCUS model or SNOWMODEL.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cox, Steven M.; Fulsaas, Kris. Mountaineering. Mountaineers Books. pp. 346–347. ISBN 9781594851292.
  2. ^ Tobias Kurzeder, Holger Feist, Powderguide: Managing Avalanche Risk, Mountain Sports Press, 978-0972482738, 190 pages
  3. ^ Pinzer, B. R., Schneebeli, M., and Kaempfer, T. U.(2012) "Vapor flux and recrystallization during dry snow metamorphism under a steady temperature gradient as observed by time-lapse micro-tomography", TheCryosphere, 6, 1141–1155, doi:10.5194/tc-6-1141-2012
  4. ^ Lehning, Michael. "Fresh insights into snow metamorphism". WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF. Archived from the original on Sep 4, 2017.
  5. ^ Mousavi, Seyedmohammad (2016). "Dry snowpack and freshwater icepack remote sensing using wideband Autocorrelation radiometry". 2016 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS). pp. 5288–5291. doi:10.1109/IGARSS.2016.7730377. ISBN 978-1-5090-3332-4. S2CID 23975901.
  6. ^ Santeford, Henry S.; Smith, James Leroy (January 1974). Advanced Concepts and Techniques in the Study of Snow and Ice Resources: An Interdisciplinary Symposium; [papers]. National Academy of Sciences. p. 273. ISBN 9780309022354.
  7. ^ Libbrecht, Kenneth G. "Snowflakes and Snow Crystals".
  8. ^ "IACS".
  9. ^ Oliver, John E. (2008-04-23). Encyclopedia of World Climatology. Springer. p. 660. ISBN 9781402032646.

External links[edit]