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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 the energy industry, 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 the Antarctic.

 

 

 

Topics

Snow as a substance

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

Snowpack

Snowpack plays a key role in local climate and water storage in alpine regions, as well as in avalanche formation.

Snow as a water resource

Snow hydrology determines how much snow accumulates where, and when it melts, which benefits both hydropower plants and flood warning systems.

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.

Snow sports

Nowadays, success in snow sports depends on more than the athletes' performance. The material and knowledge of the snow are important factors too.

Snow data

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

 

New

Snow management in Laax.

In the new EU-project PROSNOW, a web-based platform will be developed that ski resorts can use in order to improve their snow management.

Snow melt in forests, field site 1 (photo: Clare Webster)

A new publication demonstrates the importance of the surface temperature of trees in a forest for modelling snow melt.

Snow Science Winter School

A field-based training course on snow measurement techniques will take place at Col du Lautaret, France from 11 to 17 February 2018.

Why do different types of snow settle at different rates? Lab experiments show that settling depends on the snow structure.