Gravimetric and dielectric permittivity measurement systems (DMS) are applied to measure snow density, but few studies have addressed differences between the two measurement systems under complex snowpack conditions. A field experiment was conducted to measure the snow density using the two measurement systems in stratigraphical layers of different densities, liquid water content (LWC), hardness, and shear strength, and the performance of the two measurement systems was analyzed and compared. The results showed that the snow density from the DMS tended to underestimate by 9% in the dry snowpack and overestimate by 3% in the wet snowpack, expressed as the percentage of the mean density from the gravimetric measurement system (GMS). Compared with the GMS, the DMS has relatively low precision and accuracy in the dry snowpack and similar precision and accuracy in the wet snowpack. The accuracy and precision of the two measurement systems increased with the increase of hardness and shear strength of snow in the dry snowpack, but the accuracy and precision measured of the DMSs increased with the decrease of hardness and shear strength of snow in wet snowpack. The results will help field operators to choose a more reasonable measurement system based on snowpack characteristics to get reliable density data and optimize field measurements.


  • Performances of the gravimetric measuring system and the dielectric permittivity measuring system at different snow stratigraphies have been compared.

  • The precision and accuracy of the snow density measurement systems are found to be sensitive to the shear strength and hardness of snow.

  • The snow density measurement systems show relatively low precision and accuracy in low-density snow.

Graphical Abstract

Graphical Abstract
Graphical Abstract
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