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Rate of decrease of the specific surface area of dry snow: Isothermal and temperature gradient conditions

Abstract : The specific surface area (SSA) of snow is the surface area available to gases per unit mass. It is an important variable for quantifying air-snow exchange of chemical species, and it is closely related to other variables such as albedo. Snow SSA decreases during metamorphism, but few data are available to quantify its rate of decrease. We have performed laboratory experiments under isothermal and temperature gradient conditions during which the SSA of snow samples was monitored for several months. We have also monitored the SSA of snowfalls subjected to large temperature gradients at a field site in the central Alaskan taiga. The same snow layers were also monitored in a manipulated snowpack where the temperature gradient was greatly reduced. In all cases, the SSA decay follows a logarithmic equation with three adjustable variables that are parameterized using the initial snow SSA and the time-averaged temperature of the snow. Two parameterizations of the three adjustable variables are found: One applies to the isothermal experiments and to the quasi-isothermal cases studied in Alaska (equitemperature (ET) metamorphism), and the other is applicable to both the laboratory experiments performed under temperature gradients and to the natural snowpack in Alaska (temperature gradient (TG) metamorphism). Higher temperatures accelerate the decrease in SSA, and this decrease is faster under TG than ET conditions. We discuss the conditions of applicability of these parameterizations and use them to speculate on the effect of climate change on snow SSA. Depending on the climate regime, changes in the rate of decay of snow SSA and hence in snow albedo may produce either negative or positive feedbacks on climate change.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 10:19:50 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 4:08:29 AM

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Anne-Sophie Taillandier, Florent Domine, William R. Simpson, Matthew Sturm, Thomas A. Douglas. Rate of decrease of the specific surface area of dry snow: Isothermal and temperature gradient conditions. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, American Geophysical Union/Wiley, 2007, 112 (F03003), 1 à 13 p. ⟨10.1029/2006JF000514⟩. ⟨insu-00377486⟩

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