Spatially distributed temperatures at the base of two mountain snowpacks measured with fiber-optic sensors Public Deposited

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  • Snowpack base temperatures vary during accumulation and diurnally. Their measurement provides insight into physical, biological and chemical processes occurring at the snow/soil interface. Recent advances in Raman-spectra instruments, which use the scattered light in a standard telecommunications fiber-optic cable to infer absolute temperature along the entire length of the fiber, offer a unique opportunity to obtain basal snow temperatures at resolutions of 1m, 10 s and 0.1°C. Measurements along a 330m fiber over 24 hours during late-spring snowmelt at Mammoth Mountain, California, USA, showed basal snow temperatures of 0±0.2°C using 10 s averages. Where the fiberoptic cable traversed bare ground, surface temperatures approached 408C during midday. The durability of the fiber optic was excellent; no major damage or breaks occurred through the winter of burial. Data from the Dry Creek experimental watershed in Idaho across a small stream valley showed little variability of temperature on the northeast-facing, snow-covered slope, but clearly showed melting patterns and the effects of solar heating on southwest-facing slopes. These proof-of-concept experiments show that the technology enables more detailed spatial and temporal coverage than traditional point measurements of temperature.
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  • Tyler, S. W., Burak, S. A., McNamara, J. P., Lamontagne, A., Selker, J. S., & Dozier, J. (2008). Spatially distributed temperatures at the base of two mountain snowpacks measured with fiber-optic sensors. Journal of Glaciology, 54(187), 673-673. doi: 10.3189/002214308786570827
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