Hostname: page-component-7dc689bd49-bfm8c Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-21T09:19:34.540Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Experimental investigation of dielectric properties of seasonal snow at field observatories in the northwest Himalaya

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2016

Kamal K. Singh*
Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), Chandigarh, India
Ashavani Kumar
National Institute of Technology (NIT), Kurukshetra, India
Anil V. Kulkarni
Divecha Center for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
Prem Datt
Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), Chandigarh, India
Sanjay K. Dewali
Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), Chandigarh, India
Manoj Kumar
Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), Chandigarh, India
Correspondence: Kamal K. Singh <>
Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]


HTML view is not available for this content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

Radio-echo sounding techniques are very useful for fast profiling of seasonal snowpack. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is used widely for various cryospheric applications, such as snow/glacier depth estimation, snow layer identification and snow water equivalent assessment. The dielectric constant of snow is an important input parameter for the acquisition and interpretation of GPR data from the snowpack. In this study, snow dielectric constant was measured along with physical properties of snow using a snow fork operating at 1 GHz frequency. Experiments were conducted at field observatories of the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment located in different Himalayan ranges: Patseo (Greater Himalayan range), Dhundhi and Solang (Pir Panjal range). Interseasonal spatial and temporal variations in snow dielectric constant and associated snowpack properties were analysed for five winter seasons (2010-14). The mean seasonal snow dielectric constant is higher at Dhundhi (1.82 ±0.02) than at Patseo (1.69 ±0.02). The measured snow dielectric constant was used to derive snow density and liquid-water content (LWC). A better correlation between snow dielectric constant and LWC is observed for high-density snow (>300kgm-3; R2 = 0.95) than for low-density snow (<200kgm-3; R2 = 0.73). Snow-fork-derived snow density was in good agreement with manually measured values. The snow dielectric constant database generated during this study can be used as a reference for various field applications of GPR in snow-related studies.

Creative Commons
Creative Common License - CCCreative Common License - BY
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Copyright © The Author(s) 2016


Armstrong, R (1976) Wet snow avalanches. In Avalanche release and snow characteristics, San Juan Mountains, Colorado. (INSTAAR Occasional Paper 19) Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 6782 Google Scholar
Colbeck, SC (1978) The physical aspects of water flow through snow. Adv. Hydrosci., 11, 165206 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colbeck, SC (1979) Water flow through heterogeneous snow. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 1, 3745 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colbeck, SC (1982) An overview of seasonal snow metamorphism. Rev. Geophys., 20, 4561 (doi: 10.1029/RC020i001 p00045)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Conway, H and Raymond, C (1993) Snow stability during rain. j. Glaciol, 39, 635642 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Datt, P, Srivastava, PK, Negi, PS and Satyawali, PK (2008) Surface energy balance of seasonal snow cover for snow-melt estimation in N-W Himalaya. J. Earth Syst. Sci., 117, 567573 (doi: 10.1007/s12040-008-0053-7)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Denoth, A (1982) Effect of grain geometry on electrical properties of snow at frequency up to 100 MHz. J. Appl. Phys., 53(11), 74967501 (doi: 10.1063/1.330157)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Denoth, A (1989) Snow dielectric measurements. Adv. Space Res., 9,233243 (doi: 10.1016/0273-1177(89)90491-2)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Denoth, A (1994) An electronic device for long term snow wetness recording. Ann. Glaciol., 19, 104106 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fierz, C and Föhn, P. (1994) Long-term observation of the water content of an Alpine snowpack. In Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop, 30 October-3 November 1994. Snowbird, UT, 117131 Google Scholar
Fierz, C and 8 others (2009) The international classification for seasonal snow on the ground. (IHP-VII Technical Documents in Hydrology No. 83, IACS Contribution No. 1) UNESCO-International Hydrological Programme, Paris.Google Scholar
Frolov, A and Macharet, Y (1999) On dielectric properties of dry and wet snow. Hydrol. Process., 13, 17551760 (doi: 10.1002/(SICI) 1099-1085(199909)1 3:12/1 3<1755::AID-HYP854>3.0.CO;2-T)3.0.CO;2-T>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gupta, RP, Haritashya, UK and Singh, P (2005) Mapping dry/wet snow cover in the Indian Himalayas using IRS multispectral imagery. Remote Sens. Environ., 97(4), 458469 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2OO5.O5.O1O)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gusain, HS, Singh, A, Ganju, A and Singh, D (2004) Characteristics of the seasonal snow cover of Pir Panjal and Great Himalayan Ranges in Indian Himalaya. In Proceedings of the International Symposium on Snow Monitoring and Avalanches, 12-16 April 2004. Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, Manali, 97102 Google Scholar
Gusain, HS, Chand, D, Thakur, NK, Singh, A and Ganju, A (2009) Snow avalanche climatology of Indian Western Himalaya. In Proceedings of the International Symposium on Snow and Avalanches, 6-10 April 2009. Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, Manali, 8593 Google Scholar
Hallikainen, M, Ulaby, FT and Abdelrazik, M (1986) Dielectric properties of snow in the 3 to 37 GHz range. IEEE Trans. Antennas Propag., 34, 13291339 (doi: 10.1109/TAP.1986.1143757)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heilig, A, Eisen, O and Schneebeli, M (2010) Temporal observations of a seasonal snowpack using upward-looking GPR. Hydrol. Process., 24, 31333145 (doi: 10.1002/hyp.7749)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kärkäs, E, Martma, T and Sonninen, E (2005) Physical properties and stratigraphy of surface snow in western Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica. Polar Res., 24, 5567 (doi: 10.1111/j.1751-8369. 2005.tb00140.x).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kovacs, A, Gow, A and Morey, R (1995) The in situ dielectric constant of polar firn revisited. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 23, 245256 (doi: 10.1016/0165-232X(94)0001 6-Q)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kulkarni, AV, Rathore, BP, Singh, SK and Ajai, (2010) Distribution of seasonal snow cover in central and western Himalaya. Ann. Glacioi., 51, 123128 (doi: 10.3189/172756410791386445)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Louge, M, Foster, R, Jensen, N and Patterson, R (1998) A portable capacitance snow sounding instrument. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 28, 7381 (doi: 10.1016/S0165-232X(98)0001 5-9)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Machguth, H, Eisen, O, Paul, F and Hoelzle, M (2006) Strong spatial variability of snow accumulation observed with helicopter-borne GPR on two adjacent Alpine glaciers. Ceophys. Res. Lett, 33, L135O3 (doi: 10.1029/2006GL026576)Google Scholar
Mätzler, C (1996) Microwave permittivity of dry snow. IEEE Trans. Ceosci. Remote Sens., 34, 573581 (doi: 10.1109/36.485133)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McClung, DM and Schaerer, P (1993) The avalanche handbook. The Mountaineers, Seattle, Washington, USA Google Scholar
Mitterer, C, Heilig, A, Schweizer, J and Eisen, O (2011a) Upward-looking ground penetrating radar for measuring wet-snow properties. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 69, 129138 (doi: 10.1016/j.coldregions.2011.06.003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Polder, D and Van Santen, JH (1946) The effective permeability of mixtures of solids. Physica, 12(5), 257271 (doi: 10.1016/S0031-8914(46)80066-1)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmid, L and 6 others (2014) Continuous snowpack monitoring using upward-looking ground-penetrating radar technology. j. Glaciol, 60, 509525 (doi: 10.3189/2014JoG13J084)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shiraiwa, T, Shoji, H, Saito, T, Yokoyama, K and Watanabe, O (1996) Structure and dielectric properties of surface snow along the traverse route from coast to Dome Fuji Station, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Proc. NIPR Symp. Polar Meteorol. Glaciol., 10, 112 Google Scholar
Sihvola, A and Tiuri, M (1986) Snow fork for field determination of the density and wetness profiles of a snow pack. IEEE Trans. Ceosci. Remote Sens., 24(5), 717721 (doi: 10.1109/TCRS.1986.289619)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sihvola, A, Nyfors, E and Tiuri, M (1985) Mixing formulae and experimental results for the dielectric constant of snow. J. Glaciol., 31(108), 163170 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Singh, KK, Kulkarni, AV and Mishra, VD (2010) Estimation of glacier depth and moraine cover study using ground penetrating radar (CPR) in the Himalayan region. J. Indian Soc. Remote Sens., 38, 19 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Singh, KK and 6 others (2011) Snow depth and snow layer interface estimation using Ground Penetrating Radar. Curr. Sci., 100, 15321539 Google Scholar
Singh, SK, Rathore, BP, Bahuguna, IM, Ramnathan, AL and Ajai, (2012) Estimation of glacier ice thickness using ground-penetrating radar in the Himalayan region. Curr. Sci., 103, 6873 Google Scholar
Stein, J, Laberge, G and Lévesque, D (1997) Measuring the dry density and the liquid water content of snow using time domain reflectometry. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 25, 123136 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sugiyama, S, Enomoto, H, Fujita, S, Fukui, K, Nakazawa, F and Holmlund, P (2010) Dielectric permittivity of snow measured along the route traversed in the Japanese-Swedish Antarctic Expedition 2007/08. Ann. Glaciol., 51, 915 (doi: 10.3189/172756410791392745)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taylor, L (1965) Dielectric properties of mixtures. IEEE Trans. Antennas Propag., 6, 943947 (doi: 10.1109/TAP.1965.1138567)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Techel, F and Pielmeier, C (2011) Point observations of liquid water content in wet snow: investigating methodical, spatial and temporal aspects. Cryosphere., 5, 405418 (doi: 10.5194/tc-5-405-2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thakur, PK and 6 others (2012) Snow physical parameters estimation using space-based synthetic aperture radar. Ceocarto Int., 3, 263288 (doi: 10.1080/10106049.2012.672477)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tiuri, MT, Sihvola, AH, Nyfors, EG and Hallikainen, MT (1984) The complex dielectric constant of snow at microwave frequencies. IEEE J. Ocean. Eng., 9(5), 377382 (doi: 10.1109/JOE.1984. 1145645)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Toikka Engineering Ltd (2010) Snow fork: a portable instrument for measuring properties of snow (brochure). Toikka Engineering Ltd, Espoo Google Scholar
Warren, SC and Wiscombe, WJ (1985) Dirty snow after nuclear war. Nature, 313, 467470 (doi: 10.1038/313467aO)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wiesinger, T, Oberhammer, M, Seiwald, J and Koch, S (2013) Wet snow instabilities - multiple approaches to lift the veil. In Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop, 7-11 October 2013, Grenoble, France. ANENA, IRSTEA, Météo-France, Grenoble, 920925 Google Scholar