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Spatiotemporal dynamics of snow erosion, deposition and horizontal mass flux


The quantification of snow transport, both in wind tunnels and the field, apply particle counting methods limited to punctual sampling of relatively small volumes. Particle counting can only capture horizontal mass fluxes, failing to measure snow erosion or deposition. Herein, we present a novel low-cost sensor tool, based on a Microsoft Kinect, adapted to capture snow surface changes during snow drifting at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions. In the wind tunnel setting of these experiments we observe a balance between erosion and deposition at low wind speeds, while erosion is dominant at higher wind speeds. Significant differences in power spectral densities of surface mass flux and horizontal particle mass flux are observed. We show that for the saltation-length-scale parameter λ = 1, the integrated particle flux can be used to estimate the total surface mass flux in the wind tunnel. This provides an important basis to interpret mass flux measurements in the field.

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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.
Corresponding author
Correspondence: Philip Crivelli <>
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Present address: WSL-Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF Flüelastrasse 11CH-7260 Davos DorfSwitzerland.

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