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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-2019-143
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-143
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Jul 2019

Research article | 10 Jul 2019

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

Revisiting the vapor diffusion coefficient in dry snow

Andrew Hansen Andrew Hansen
  • Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Laramie, WY 82071

Abstract. A substantial degree of uncertainty surrounds the value of the diffusion coefficient for water vapor diffusing through snow under the influence of a temperature gradient. A collection of theoretical, numerical, and experimental studies suggest the value of the normalized diffusion coefficient of snow with respect to water vapor diffusing through humid air ranges from near zero to as high as 7. The challenges in quantifying the diffusion coefficient are attributed to the fact that snow is a phase changing mixture of ice and humid air. Phase changes involving sublimation and condensation of water molecules significantly alter diffusion paths that water vapor molecules must travel through in the complex ice/humid air microstructure.

I identify 4 major diffusion mechanisms caused by the introduction of an ice phase into humid air that should be accounted for in any calculation of the diffusion coefficient. Mathematical and experimentally motivated arguments enable one to estimate the physical significance of each of these diffusion mechanisms. Using this information, three separate models of increasing complexity are developed to provide estimates of the diffusion coefficient for snow. Finally, several prior studies are anchored to a formal definition of the diffusion coefficient and, if necessary, adjusted to account for the 4 diffusion mechanisms presented. The end result is a remarkable consistency in predicted values for vapor diffusion in snow, showing the normalized diffusion coefficient with respect to water vapor in air to be slightly enhanced at all densities, with typical values between 1 and 1.3. These values are consistent with the models developed herein.

Andrew Hansen
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Andrew Hansen
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Latest update: 18 Jul 2019
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Short summary
The diffusion coefficient of water vapor in snow is an important material property for understanding mass transfer in snow as it relates to the evolution of snow microstructure under a temperature gradient. A colorful history surrounds efforts to determine this parameter with no definitive answer. I provide analytical models combined with a thorough review of past research to quantify this important snow property.
The diffusion coefficient of water vapor in snow is an important material property for...
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