Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies

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Swamp Angel Study Plot (subalpine)

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Senator Beck Study Plot (alpine)

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Putney Study Plot (summit)

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Basin Stream Gauge

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St. Paul RF Base Station

The Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies serves the mountain science community and regional resource managers by hosting & conducting interdisciplinary research and conducting integrative 24/7/365 monitoring that captures weather, snowpack, radiation, soils, plant community and hydrologic signals of regional climate trends.

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CSAS News: January 2009

CSAS Hosts Dr. Christine Pielmeier, of the Swiss’s WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, in Davos, for Week-Long Field Campaign

In late January 2009 Dr. Christine Pielmeier, a staff scientist and avalanche forecaster at the Swiss’s WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, came to Silverton for a week fieldwork.  She, along with her collaborator Dr. Hans-Peter Marshall from Boise State University, brought and deployed an impressive amount of very high-tech equipment capable of making tens of thousands of precision measurements of snowpack properties at scales ranging from microstructural texture and strength at the individual snow grain scale, to snowpack layering over multi-kilometer transects of the Senator Beck basin Study Area.  Traditional “low tech” methods for characterizing and testing snowpack stability were performed in a grid of snowpits surrounded by high tech measurements using the Swiss’s “Snow Micro-Pen” motorized ram resistance sensor and Marshall’s “FMCW” snow-penetrating radar system.  Several long, hard days of fieldwork at both sub-alpine and alpine sites produced a rich dataset for subsequent spatial and other analyses designed to tease out the ability of the high tech equipment to detect snowpack properties revealed by the lower tech snowpit observations and traditional stability tests.

operating micro-pen
swamp angel study plot
Day 1 of the campaign was spent on a small slope adjoining the CSAS’s Swamp Angel Study Plot.  Chris Pielmeier is seen operating the Swiss Snow Micro-Pen instrument as Hans-Peter Marshall and his assistant Andy Gleason prepare an adjacent snowpit.
After completing her high-tech, motorized Micro-Pen measurement, Chris performed an adjoining profile of the same snowpack property – resistance to penetration – using the time-tested, low-tech Swiss Ram approach, a pointed tube driven down through the snowpack by drop-hammer blows.

radar measurements
stability sampling
Once they had completed these measurements and a series of stability tests in four snowpits, Hans-Peter and Andy made radar measurements in a carefully spaced series of traverses across the slope, collecting hundreds of detailed snowpack profiles for comparison to both the manual snowpack profiles and the Micro-Pen and Swiss Ram profiles.
The sampling scheme employed near the Swamp Angel Study Plot was later repeated in alpine terrain near the Senator Beck Study Plot.  Chris is seen using her avalanche probe to preview snowpack depths across this small slope while under close spotting by the rest of the team.  Stability sampling requires finding small slopes like this, with non-threatening terrain above and below the slope, since the loading on the snowpack by a large team is substantial.  Even then, one person always remained off the slope, in a spotting position, while the team performed its work.

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