Snow farming: conserving snow over the summer season

Grünewald, Thomas; Wolfsperger, Fabian; Lehning, Michael

Summer storage of snow for tourism has seen an increasing interest in the last years. Covering large snow piles with materials such as sawdust enables more than two-thirds of the initial snow volume to be conserved. We present detailed mass balance measurements of two sawdust-covered snow piles obtained by terrestrial laser scanning during summer 2015. Results indicate that 74 and 63 % of the snow volume remained over the summer for piles in Davos, Switzerland and Martell, Italy. If snow mass is considered instead of volume, the values increase to 83 and 72 %. The difference is attributed to settling and densification of the snow. Additionally, we adapted the one-dimensional, physically based snow cover model SNOWPACK to perform simulations of the sawdust-covered snow piles. Model results and measurements agreed extremely well at the point scale. Moreover, we analysed the contribution of the different terms of the surface energy balance to snow ablation for a pile covered with a 40 cm thick sawdust layer and a pile without insulation. Short-wave radiation was the dominant source of energy for both scenarios, but the moist sawdust caused strong cooling by long-wave emission and negative sensible and latent heat fluxes. This cooling effect reduces the energy available for melt by up to a factor of 12. As a result only 9 % of the net short-wave energy remained available for melt. Finally, sensitivity studies of the parameters thickness of the sawdust layer, air temperature, precipitation and wind speed were performed. We show that sawdust thickness has a tremendous effect on snow loss. Higher air temperatures and wind speeds increase snow ablation but less significantly. No significant effect of additional precipitation could be found as the sawdust remained wet during the entire summer with the measured quantity of rain. Setting precipitation amounts to zero, however, strongly increased melt. Overall, the 40 cm sawdust provides sufficient protection for mid-elevation (approx. 1500 m a.s.l.) Alpine climates and can be managed with reasonable effort.

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Grünewald, Thomas / Wolfsperger, Fabian / Lehning, Michael: Snow farming: conserving snow over the summer season. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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