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New device enables fast observations of snow reflectivity

Image by Hanne Suokanerva

New device has proven to be useful in snow reflectivity measurements. It’s possible to get direct observations of snow without taking separate snow samples.

Snow microstructure affects the reflectivity of infrared radiation from snow. Handheld portable QualitySpec Trek –device utilizes this principle to measure the reflectivity of snow directly from a snowpack. The device was tested in Sodankylä, where the results show it has potential in measuring the microstructure, surface reflectivity and impurities of a snowpack.

Snow microstructure has been observed in Sodankylä since 2012 using IceCube instrument, which measures the reflectivity of an infrared laser from a snow sample surface. When using IceCube, snow sample has to be taken to a sample holder with a spatula before the actual measurement.

Based on reflectivity, the relation between snow surface area and snow mass (specific surface area, SSA) can be calculated. SSA is affected e.g. by the size and shape of the snow grains. In the research, measurements were conducted side by side using both IceCube and QualitySpec Trek –devices.

Although the IceCube measures SSA-values accurately, using it is relatively slow, and requires taking snow samples prior to measurement. On the contrary, when using QualitySpec Trek –device directly on the snowpack, the observed snow remains nearly intact and in natural state. Measurements are also faster and QualitySpec Trek –device is easy to move around under the field conditions. QualitySpec Trek –device has an internal light source, so it is not dependent on the illumination from the Sun. Measurements can be conducted either directly from the snow surface or from a vertical snow profile of a snow pit wall. Direct contact measurement enables the observation of the exact layer selected from the snow profile. In this research, the measurements of snow reflectivity and microstructure were obtained from vertical profiles.

More information:

Research Scientist Leena Leppänen,

Leppänen, L., and Kontu, A. (2018). Analysis of QualitySpec Trek Reflectance from Vertical Profiles of Taiga Snowpack. Geosciences, 8(11), 404.

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