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Meteorological, Elevation, and Slope Effects on Surface Hoar Formation : Volume 9, Issue 2 (23/03/2015)

By Horton, S.

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Book Id: WPLBN0004023180
Format Type: PDF Article :
File Size: Pages 29
Reproduction Date: 2015

Title: Meteorological, Elevation, and Slope Effects on Surface Hoar Formation : Volume 9, Issue 2 (23/03/2015)  
Author: Horton, S.
Volume: Vol. 9, Issue 2
Language: English
Subject: Science, Cryosphere, Discussions
Collections: Periodicals: Journal and Magazine Collection (Contemporary), Copernicus GmbH
Publication Date:
Publisher: Copernicus Gmbh, Göttingen, Germany
Member Page: Copernicus Publications


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Horton, S., Schirmer, M., & Jamieson, B. (2015). Meteorological, Elevation, and Slope Effects on Surface Hoar Formation : Volume 9, Issue 2 (23/03/2015). Retrieved from

Description: Department of Civil Engineering, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Failure in layers of buried surface hoar crystals (frost) can cause hazardous snow slab avalanches. Surface hoar crystals form on the snow surface and are sensitive to micro-meteorological conditions. In this study, the role of meteorological and terrain factors were investigated for three surface hoar layers in the Columbia Mountains of Canada. The distribution of crystals was observed over different elevations and aspects during 20 days of field observations. The same layers were modelled on a 2.5 km horizontal grid by forcing the snow cover model SNOWPACK with forecast weather data from a numerical weather prediction model. The moisture content of the air (i.e. absolute humidity) had the largest impact on modelled surface hoar growth, with warm and moist air being favourable. Surface hoar was most developed at certain elevation bands, usually corresponding to elevations with warm humid air, light winds, and cold surface temperatures. SNOWPACK simulations on virtual slopes systematically predicted smaller surface hoar on south-facing slopes. In the field, a complex combination of surface hoar and sun crusts were observed, suggesting the model did not adequately resolve the surface energy balance on slopes. Overall, a coupled weather–snow cover model could benefit avalanche forecasters by predicting surface hoar layers on a regional scale over different elevation bands.

Meteorological, elevation, and slope effects on surface hoar formation

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