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6th Snow Science Winter School 2020

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16-22 February 2020, Col du Lautaret, France

Special topic "Snow in a changing climate, impact on human and nature"



Covering up to 49% of the total land surface in midwinter in the northern hemisphere, snow is a crucial component of the cryosphere. Snow plays a key role in our environnment, with social and economical implications such as the climate change, natural hazard, tourisms, etc. How does snow behave and interact with its surrounding largely depends on its microstructure, which varies widely from light dendritic snowflakes to small rounded grains or dense melt crusts for instance. Measuring and characterizing snow is therefore essential.

Great advances have been made over the past 15 years toward more quantitative, objective characterization of snow, allowing for a better, more physical description of the processes; they came along with new measurements techniques. These improved quantification methods of the snow cover must be spread to the cryosphere scientists community, and beyond, as beneficial to many applications in this field, e.g. hydrology, climatology, avalanche forecasting or earth observation from space.

The 6th Snow Science Winter School will teach these modern techniques of snow measurements. The school consists of a field training complemented by theoretical lessons. It includes the practice with some of the state-of-the-art snow measurement techniques (specific surface area by reflection and spectroscopy, near-infrared photography, high-resolution penetrometry, micro-tomography, etc). Students will learn about how to characterize snow cover, what are the fundamental processes responsible for its evolution, and how does it interacts with the environment. For this edition, a special focus will be on snow in a changing climate, impact on human and nature.

Target audience

Any graduate student or post-doc working on snow or in some snow related field, this year especially in climate change and impacts on human and nature, is welcome to participate. Those fields include everybody interested in cryospheric sciences. 

Course structure

The focus of this school lies on alpine snowpack field measurements combined with theoretical lessons in the classroom. Students are supervised by a team of lecturers, experts in various snow-related fields and from different countries worldwide.

Field measurements will be done in small groups of 3-4 students. Each group of students will have to prepare a report describing the methods, results and interpretation of the data they will have collected over the week, in addition to other inputs that could be provided (modelling data for example).

The course corresponds to 3 ETCS-Points. The winter school is listed in the coursebook of the doctoral school at EPFL Lausanne. To receive full credit, a report taking 40 hours of homework must be handed in and will be evaluated.

Lecturers (preliminary)

- Marie Dumont (CNRM/CEN) - snow modeling

- Anna Kontu (FMI) - field measurements and remote sensing, Arctic snowpack

- Neige Calonne (CNRM/CEN) - snow microstructure

- Samuel Morin (CNRM/CEN) - snow in ski resorts, climate and social impacts

- Fabian Wolfsperger (SLF) - winter sport

- Henning Löwe (SLF) - snow physics

- Michaela Teich (BFW) - snow - vegetations interactions

- Alexandre Langlois (Univ. Sherbrooke) - in situ measurements

Course cost

300 euros including accommodation, meals and social events.


Due to the limited number of places, admission to the course is a two-step process.

1. Applicationis closed now.

2. Registration - You will receive an invitation for registration, based on the evaluation made by the committee, until November 1, 2019. Please register until November 17, 2019 otherwise your place will be given to another applicant.


The Snow Science Winter Schools are joint project of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, and Météo-France-CNRS/CNRM.

This year the local coordinators are Marie Dumont and Neige Calonne, Météo-France-CNRS, CNRM / Snow research center (CEN), Grenoble, France.

Administrative question and contact information

Location and travel information

The course will be at Col du Lautaret, France, in the buildings of the "Station Alpine Joseph Fourier" (N 45°02.112', E 6°24.064, 2100 m a.s.l) with direct access to field sites. The research facilities are working in summer as in winter time, and devoted to research projects or university training and courses (ecology, physiology, soil, water, snow, physics of the atmosphere, geology, landscapes, human sciences). The platform is a part of the ANAEE-facilities project "Analysis and experimentations on ecosystems" coordinated by CNRS, INRA, and Université Grenoble Alpes. The location is ideal for atmospheric and environmental research in the alpine zone. Snow cover at the site persists typically from October to May, making the site very well suited also for snow-related studies.

Col du Lautaret is located at 3 hours by car from Lyon international airport (LYS) and 2 hours by car from Grenoble train station. Private shuttles will be used to transport the students and lecturers from Grenoble main station to Col du Lautaret.

Important information

As the course is to a great extent based on field work, participants must:

  1. bring their own winter gear, suitable for snowy and high-altitude conditions (warm and wind-proof clothing (onion principle), snow boots, thick gloves/mittens, warm underwear, etc)
  2. be healthy enough to undertake the field day (2-3 hours hiking with snow shoes)
  3. have a valid travel and health insurance

Provisional sponsors


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