The proposed project ‘Laser Drill for Arctic Snowpack Stratigraphy Study’ (LASER ARCS) will test a new device for measuring snowpack stratigraphy under Arctic conditions. The SnowLaserDrill (SLD), consists of two lasers. The drilling laser is used to melt a hole into the snow; the second laser is used to continuously determine the depth of the hole. There is a linear relationship between snow density and melting progress, thus a density profile of the snowpack can be generated from the velocity data of the borehole progress. This can be used to analyse the snowpack structure , e.g. to identify weak layers and thus improve avalanche warning.
In LASER ARCS, the density profile will be determined at 6 different sites in two study areas using the SLD. The measurements will be carried in the area around Longyearbyen on Platåberget and Breinosa. Here, a measurement platform is first set up, which serves as a zero point for all snow measurements and ensures that even the top snow layers remain undisturbed. The SDL-data will be validated against data collected with a Snow Micro Pen (SMP), and traditional snow pit observations.
The SLD is exposed to Arctic conditions for the first time during these measurements. Here, temperatures and snow density play a decisive role. Drilling through snow layers with high density especially have not yet been field tested. It will be investigated to what extent the snow type (Alpine or Arctic snow) makes a difference in determining the density.
LASER ARCS is directly tied into on-going research projects at the Arctic Safety Centre, to develop improved systems for monitoring of snow and snow avalanche hazards in Svalbard. In particular, co-located depth-resolved density measurements will help augment and verify density data automatically acquired via the ASC’s new Snow Pack Analyzer. The team will further collaborate with a group from the University of Sherbrooke working on similar snow-related research at the same time in the region.