Optimization of over-summer snow storage at midlatitudes and low elevation

Weiss, Hannah S.; Bierman, Paul R.; Dubief, Yves; Hamshaw, Scott D.

Climate change, including warmer winter temperatures, a shortened snowfall season, and more rain-on-snow events, threatens nordic skiing as a sport. In response, over-summer snow storage, attempted primarily using woodchips as a cover material, has been successfully employed as a climate change adaptation strategy by high-elevation and/or high-latitude ski centers in Europe and Canada. Such storage has never been attempted at a site that is both low elevation and midlatitude, and few studies have quantified storage losses repeatedly through the summer. Such data, along with tests of different cover strategies, are prerequisites to optimizing snow storage strategies. Here, we assess the rate at which the volume of two woodchip-covered snow piles (each ∼200 m3), emplaced during spring 2018 in Craftsbury, Vermont (45∘ N and 360 m a.s.l.), changed. We used these data to develop an optimized snow storage strategy. In 2019, we tested that strategy on a much larger, 9300 m3 pile. In 2018, we continually logged air-to-snow temperature gradients under different cover layers including rigid foam, open-cell foam, and woodchips both with and without an underlying insulating blanket and an overlying reflective cover. We also measured ground temperatures to a meter depth adjacent to the snow piles and used a snow tube to measure snow density. During both years, we monitored volume change over the melt season using terrestrial laser scanning every 10–14 d from spring to fall. In 2018, snow volume loss ranged from 0.29 to 2.81 m3 d−1, with the highest rates in midsummer and lowest rates in the fall; mean rates of volumetric change were 1.24 and 1.50 m3 d−1, 0.55 % to 0.72 % of initial pile volume per day. Snow density did increase over time, but most volume loss was the result of melting. Wet woodchips underlain by an insulating blanket and covered with a reflective sheet were the most effective cover combination for minimizing melt, likely because the aluminized surface reflected incoming short-wave radiation while the wet woodchips provided significant thermal mass, allowing much of the energy absorbed during the day to be lost by long-wave emission at night. The importance of the pile surface-area-to-volume ratio is demonstrated by 4-fold lower rates of volumetric change for the 9300 m3 pile emplaced in 2019; it lost <0.16 % of its initial volume per day between April and October, retaining ∼60 % of the initial snow volume over summer. Together, these data demonstrate the feasibility of over-summer snow storage at midlatitudes and low elevations and suggest efficient cover strategies.

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Weiss, Hannah S. / Bierman, Paul R. / Dubief, Yves / et al: Optimization of over-summer snow storage at midlatitudes and low elevation. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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