The SP2 snow penetrometer: Accuracy and usability in terms of its intended use, avalanche forecasting
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The snow cover stratigraphy is an important factor in the present operational avalanche forecasting. Manual methods for recording snow profiles and snow hardness is widely used. These traditional methods lack objectivity and are observer dependent. The rammsonde proved to increase objectivity of hardness measurements, but the low vertical resolution leads to avalanche-prone features, such as thin weak layers, being overlooked. The SMP has shown that it can accurately, objectively and reliably provide detailed information on the snow stratigraphy and has greatly contributed to the study of snow. The recently developed SP2 tries to pack the same features into an affordable and compact design. This would allow rapid collection of quantitative and objective measurements of snowpack features associated with snow stability, and could potentially be an accommodation for observers working in avalanche forecasting. In this study, we have investigated the SP2s accuracy and repeatability by performing field and lab tests, and by comparing its ability to quantify snow stratigraphy against traditional methods such as manual snow profiles. The SP2 showed that it could record the main stratigraphic features of the snow covers and that it had consistent hardness measurements. The results are restricted to the tested snow conditions, but indications were given that the hardness measurements are too coarse to resolve measurements in soft snow. The penetrometer is limited by poor accuracy in the depth measurements, where possible contributing factor may include unprecise surface determination and push-rate variability. With increased accuracy and force sensitivity the SP2 or similar penetrometers have the potential of becoming valuable tools for avalanche observers.
Geology and Geohazards GE491 Department of Natural Science