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Experimental determination of the absorption enhancement parameter of snow

  • Quentin Libois (a1), Ghislain Picard (a1), Marie Dumont (a2), Laurent Arnaud (a1), Claude Sergent (a2), Evelyne Pougatch (a2), Marcel Sudul (a2) and David Vial (a1) (a3) (a2)...


In optical models snow is commonly treated as a disperse collection of particles. In this representation, the penetration depth of solar radiation is sensitive to the shape of the particles, in particular to the absorption enhancement parameter, B, that quantifies the lengthening of the photon path inside grains due to internal multiple reflections. Spherical grains, with theoretical B = 1.25, are often used. We propose an experimental method to determine B, and apply it to 36 snow samples and 56 snow strata. The method is based on radiative transfer modeling and combined measurements of reflectance and irradiance profiles. Such measurements are performed in the laboratory and in the field, in Antarctica and the French Alps. The retrieved values of B are in the range 0.7–2.4, with a wide peak between 1.4 and 1.8. An analysis of measurement error propagation based on a Bayesian framework shows that the uncertainty on B is ± 0.1, which is the order of magnitude of variations between different snow types. Thus, no systematic link between B and snow type can be inferred. Here we recommend using shapes with B = 1.6 to model snow optical properties, rather than spherical grains.

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