Ground penetrating radar operated from helicopters or snowmobiles is used to determine snow water equivalent (SWE) for annual snowpacks from radar wave two-way travel time. However, presence of liquid water in a snowpack is known to decrease the radar wave velocity, which for a typical snowpack with 5% (by volume) liquid water can lead to an overestimation of SWE by about 20%. It would therefore be beneficial if radar measurements could also be used to determine snow wetness. Our approach is to use radar wave attenuation in the snowpack, which depends on electrical properties of snow (permittivity and conductivity) which in turn depend on snow wetness. The relationship between radar wave attenuation and these electrical properties can be derived theoretically, while the relationship between electrical permittivity and snow wetness follows a known empirical formula, which also includes snow density. Snow wetness can therefore be determined from radar wave attenuation if the relationship between electrical conductivity and snow wetness is also known. In a laboratory test, three sets of measurements were made on initially dry 1 m thick snowpacks. Snow wetness was controlled by stepwise addition of water between radar measurements, and a linear relationship between electrical conductivity and snow wetness was established.
Laboratory test of snow wetness influence on electrical conductivity measured with ground penetrating radar
Nils Granlund, Angela Lundberg, James Feiccabrino, David Gustafsson; Laboratory test of snow wetness influence on electrical conductivity measured with ground penetrating radar. Hydrology Research 1 February 2009; 40 (1): 33–44. doi: https://doi.org/10.2166/nh.2009.040
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