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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-293
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-293
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 14 Jan 2019

Research article | 14 Jan 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

The evolution of snow bedforms in the Colorado Front Range and the processes that shape them

Kelly Kochanski1,2,3, Robert S. Anderson1,2, and Gregory E. Tucker1,3 Kelly Kochanski et al.
  • 1Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
  • 2Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
  • 3Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA

Abstract. When wind blows over dry snow, the snow surface self-organizes into bedforms such as dunes, ripples, snow-waves, and sastrugi. These bedforms govern the interaction between wind, warmth, and the snowpack, but thus far they have far attracted few scientific studies. We present the first time-lapse documentation of snow bedform movement and evolution, as part of a series of detailed observations of snow bedform movement in the Colorado Front Range. We show examples of the movement of snow ripples, snow-waves, barchan dunes, snow-steps, and sastrugi. We also introduce a previously undocumented bedform: the stealth dune. These observations show that (1) snow dunes accelerate minute-by-minute in response to gusts; (2) sastrugi and snow-steps present steep edges to the wind, and move by retreating downwind; (3) snow-waves and dunes deposit layers of cohesive snow in their wakes; and (4) bedforms evolve along complex, cyclic trajectories. We use these observations to build new conceptual models of bedform evolution, based on the relative fluxes of snowfall, aeolian transport, erosion, and snow sintering across and into the surface. We find that many snow bedforms are generated by complex interactions between these processes. The prototypical example is the snow-wave, in which deposition, sintering, and erosion occur in transverse stripes across the snowscape.

Kelly Kochanski et al.
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The movement of snow bedforms in the Colorado Front Range: Time-lapse videos from Niwot Ridge, CO K. Kochanski https://doi.org/10.5446/38612

Kelly Kochanski et al.
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Short summary
Wind-blown snow does not lie flat. It forms dunes, ripples, and anvil-shaped sastrugi. These features ornament much of the snow on Earth, and change the snow's effects on polar climates, but they have rarely been studied. We spent three winters watching snow move through the Colorado Front Range. We present our findings, including the first time-lapse videos of snow dune and sastrugi growth, here.
Wind-blown snow does not lie flat. It forms dunes, ripples, and anvil-shaped sastrugi. These...
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