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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Low-Temperature Scanning Electron Microscopy of Snow Crystal Metamorphism in Winter Snow Covers

Authors
item Foster, James - NASA/GODDARD SPACE FLT
item Rango, Albert
item Josberger, Edward - US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
item Erbe, Eric
item Pooley, Christopher
item Wergin, William

Submitted to: Scanning
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2004
Publication Date: March 1, 2004
Citation: Foster, J., Rango, A., Josberger, E.G., Erbe, E.F., Pooley, C.D., Wergin, W.P. 2004. Low-temperature scanning electron microscopy of snow crystal metamorphism in winter snow covers. Scanning. 26(2):68-69.

Interpretive Summary: We need to be able to easily image snow crystals in a snowpack for forecastig applications, but the use of light microscopy significantly limits our tracking of snow crystal metamorphism. The use of low-temperature, scaning electron microscopy (LTSEM) provides a powerful tool for producing high-resolution images of snow crystals and determining their change with time. This capability was successfully tested on snow cover indicative of taiga, alpine and prairie climatic regimes. The LTSEM approach has immediate application in forecasts of avalanches, water supply, and recharge of the soil moisture reservoir, and the approach can be used wherever snowpacks develop on Earth. It will also allow scientists to better understand snowpack processes and dynamics.

Technical Abstract: It is important to monitor the development of seasonal snow cover classes (tundra, taiga, alpine, maritime, prairie and ephemeral) worldwide and to visualize and understand snow crystal metamorphism. Low-temperature, scanning electron microscopy provides a superior form of snow crystal imaging and was successfully tested in taiga, alpine and prairie snowpacks with approximately 50% of the total depth made up of depth hoar crystals. The technique can be used easily for field data collection and provides a new tool for studying important snowpack processes with applications to avalanche and water supply forecasting.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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