Sound Used To Probe Snowpack’s Water Content

AUniversity of Saskatchewan graduate student’s work with sound waves in snow may show farmers how much water is in a given snowpack.

Measurements of a snowpack’s properties have usually involved shovelling, which wrecks the snowpack’s layers, prevents measurement at the same site more than once, and also can’t be used to track changes in a snowpack over time.

But hydrology grad student Nicholas Kinar has developed a “non-invasive” method of measuring snow water equivalent (SWE), using a loudspeaker to send sound waves into the snowpack, reflecting sound back to a microphone assembly from which data can be processed.

“Being able to directly measure snowpack parameters without disturbing the snowpack, and being able to make multiple measurements over the winter season would greatly increase the ability for these models to predict future climate and weather patterns,” Kinar said in a release. “This implies better environmental predictions for our agricultural producers.”

Being able to more accurately predict water availability will help prepare for future scenarios, particularly in areas where snowmelt dominates water inputs to rivers and streams, he said.

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