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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-260
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-260
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 18 Dec 2019

Submitted as: research article | 18 Dec 2019

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

Radar measurements of blowing snow off a mountain ridge

Benjamin Walter1, Hendrik Huwald1,2, Josué Gehring2, Yves Bühler1, and Michael Lehning1,2 Benjamin Walter et al.
  • 1WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Flüelastrasse 11, 7260 Davos Dorf, Switzerland
  • 2School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland

Abstract. Modelling and forecasting wind-driven redistribution of snow in mountainous regions with its implications on avalanche danger, mountain hydrology or flood hazard is still a challenging task often lacking in essential details. Measurements of drifting and blowing snow for improving process understanding and model validation are typically limited to point measurements at meteorological stations, providing no information on the spatial variability of horizontal mass fluxes or even the vertically integrated mass flux. We present a promising application of a compact and low-cost radar system for measuring and characterizing larger scale (hundreds of meters) snow redistribution processes, specifically blowing snow off a mountain ridge. These measurements provide valuable information of blowing snow velocities, frequency of occurrence, travel distances and turbulence characteristics. Blowing snow velocities measured with the radar are validated by comparison against wind velocities measured with a 3D ultrasonic anemometer. A minimal blowing snow travel distance of 60–120 m is reached in 10–20 % of the time during a snow storm, depending on the strength of the storm event. The relative frequency of transport distances decreases exponentially above the minimal travel distance, with a maximum measured distance of 280 m. The travel distance is linearly correlated with the wind velocity, revealing a threshold for snow particle entrainment and transport of 6.75 m s−1. Turbulence statistics did not allow to draw a conclusion on whether low-level low-turbulence jets or highly turbulent gusts are more effective in transporting blowing snow over longer distances. Drone-based photogrammetry measurements of the spatial snow height distribution revealed increased snow accumulation in the lee of the ridge being the result of the measured local blowing snow conditions.

Benjamin Walter et al.
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Benjamin Walter et al.
Data sets

Snow Drift Station - Micro Rain Radar B. Walter, H. Huwald, and J. Gehring https://doi.org/10.16904/envidat.113

Snow Drift Station - 3D Ultrasonic B. Walter and H. Huwald https://doi.org/10.16904/envidat.116

Benjamin Walter et al.
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Short summary
We applied a horizontally mounted low-cost weather radar to measure blowing snow velocities, frequency of occurrence, travel distances and turbulence characteristics off a mountain ridge. Our analysis provides a first insight into the potential of radar measurements for determining blowing snow characteristics, improves our understanding of mountain ridge blowing snow events and serves as a valuable data basis for validating coupled numerical weather and snowpack simulations.
We applied a horizontally mounted low-cost weather radar to measure blowing snow velocities,...
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