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Snow Grains

Definition and introduction

Changes in snow grains and their bonds contribute to changes in snow's albedo, microwave scattering, thermal conductivity, mechanical properties, and gas adsorption. The concept of the snow grain would seem to be easily defined and yet the complexity of the snow matrix and forms resulting from initial conditions and metamorphism renders an exact definition impossible (Mätzler, 1997). This lack of a simple definition results largely because the degree of sintering between the (always) monocrystalline particles varies enormously and concave or highly asymmetric forms are not uncommon. The concept of the snow grain to a remote sensor is substantially different from that to an avalanche forecaster, and their respective defined sizes for the same snow can vary by two orders of magnitude. Here, the concept of snow grains is described through the characterization of shape and size. (Note: sintering is described in the entry on snow bonding.)

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