Probing the depths of snow

By Daniel Collins 01/11/2009

Yesterday I went to Temple Basin, not to ski but to measure snow.

In contrast with Spain, the rain and snow in New Zealand falls mainly in the mountains. Moisture-laden air, a lot from the Tasman, hits the mountains and is forced to rise. A combination of pressure and temperature changes force the moisture to become the rain or snow that falls.

We know why. We know how. But we don’t really know how much.

Later this week I’ll be talking with my colleague who led this study, but for now I’ll leave you with a few photos from the field work.

Cold region hydrology isn’t exactly a walk in the park. We didn’t need crampons yesterday, but ice axes came in handy.

Of course, it’s not the scenery that attracts the field workers, oh no.

Two types of measurements we made were of snow depth along a transect and snow density below the surface. This allows us to estimate how much water is contained in the snow pack. Here, a 2 m-deep pit for the density measurements. The red tinge is from the Australian dust storm.

It’s ironic that the curious scientists themselves become the subject of curiosity (and that this curiosity was in turn reciprocated).

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