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Highly complex material, natural hazard, economic resource or part of the global climate system – at the SLF we investigate all these aspects of snow.

 

At first glance, snow may appear to be simply a homogeneous, white mass that covers the landscape in winter. But examined more closely, it is actually a complex and constantly changing material. This change in snow, known as 'snow metamorphism', is investigated in our cold laboratories using state-of-the-art measuring methods. This helps us to better understand how and when avalanches develop. However, it is not only avalanches that pose a threat to people and infrastructure: melting snow can also be dangerous if it contributes to the formation of floods. Yet snow is also an important economic resource. Whether for winter sports or as a source of water for energy and agriculture, it is an integral part of life in many regions.

 

Snow and climate

Snow is often near its melting point in normal winter temperatures. As a result, snowpack is sensitive to climate changes. Higher temperatures or changes in precipitation levels lead to changes in the extent, thickness and density of the snowpack. Thanks to many years of measurements, we are able to identify these changes. More recently, we have increasingly been supplementing ground measurements with remote sensing data from satellites, aircraft and drones, which also provides information on the large-scale distribution of the snowpack. Snowpack influences the global climate, for example by changing the Earth's radiation balance.

At the SLF we investigate all aspects of snow using measuring methods that have proved themselves over decades as well as state-of-the-art measurement instruments, many of which we develop ourselves or adapt to the special requirements of snow research. Our measurements are carried out in laboratories and on test sites in the Davos region, but also throughout Switzerland and even worldwide, for example in Greenland or in the polar regions.

 

Focus areas

Ganz links ein einzelner, verzweigter Schneestern, der unter einem Mikroskop fotografiert wurde. Das Bild in der Mitte zeigt ein Messraster auf dem mehrere Neuschneekristalle liegen. Ganz rechts eine dreidimensionale, stark vergrösserte Darstellung von Neuschnee, der in einem Computertomographen gescannt wurde.

Snow as a material

We investigate the microstructure of snow in order to understand the processes of avalanche formation.

Das Bild zeigt ein alpines Skigebiet in herbstlichen Farben. Nur rund um die Schneelanzen ist der Boden bereits weiss und lässt den Verlauf der Pistenlinie erahnen.

Snow and climate change

Snow cover duration and maximum snow depths are declining in the Alps, due to more frequent rainfall instead of snow and an earlier snow melt.

Im Hintergrund ist eine entfernte Bergkette zu sehen. Im Vordergrund ragt das obere Ende einer Klimatstation in den Himmel. Ganz oben befindet sich eine Person, die mit der Wartung der Messstation beschäftigt ist.

Snow data

Our longterm snow measurements provide the basis for our avalanche bulletins as well as long-term climatological analyses.

Versuchsfeld Weissfluhjoch.

Weissfluhjoch test site

Just below the Weissfluhjoch is our oldest test site with continuous measurement series since the 1930s.

SnowMicroPen®

The SMP measures the penetration resistance of the snow. This allows conclusions about the density and structure and thus the snow stratification.

 

New

The year was marked by the arrival of the new director and the launch of strategic programmes and a research centre in Davos.

A simple calculation for snow friction should lead to better designed inrun tracks for slopestyle jumps.

Overview of the weather, snow cover, avalanche danger and selected avalanche accidents which caused damage to people or objects (in German or French).

SLF researchers took a leading role in the area of snow. First overviews have now been published.

 

Publications