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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-2019-45
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-45
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 28 Mar 2019

Research article | 28 Mar 2019

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

Understanding Snow Bedform Formation by Adding Sintering to a Cellular Automata Model

Varun Sharma1, Louise Braud1, and Michael Lehning1,2 Varun Sharma et al.
  • 1School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 2WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland

Abstract. Cellular automata based modelling for simulating snow bedforms and snow deposition is introduced in this study. The well-known RESCAL model, previously used for sand bedforms, is adapted for this purpose by implementing a simple sintering model. The effect of sintering is first explored for solitary barchan dunes of different sizes and flow conditions. Three types of behaviour are observed: small barchans continues their motion without any perceptible difference while large barchans sinter immediately. Barchans of intermediate size split, leaving behind a sintered core and a smaller barchan is formed. It is found that sintering introduces an upper limit to the size of bedforms that can remain mobile. The concept of "maximum streamwise length" (M.S.L) is introduced and M.S.L is identified for different wind speeds using the solitary dune scenario. Simulations of the full evolution from an initially flat snow layer to a complex dune field are performed next. It is found that the largest bedforms lie below the M.S.L threshold. Additionally, it is found that shallow snow layers are the most susceptible to mechanical destabilization by the wind.

Varun Sharma et al.
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Latest update: 18 Apr 2019
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Short summary
Snow surfaces, under the action of wind form beautiful shapes such as waves and dunes. This study is the first-ever study to simulate these shapes using a state-of-the art numerical modelling tool. While these beautiful and ephemeral shapes on snow surfaces are fascinating from a purely aesthetic point of view, they are also critical in regulating the transfer of heat and mass between the atmosphere and snowpacks, thus being of huge importance to the Earth System.
Snow surfaces, under the action of wind form beautiful shapes such as waves and dunes. This...
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