Skip to main content Accessibility help

Wind-blown flux rates derived from drifts at arctic snow fences

  • Matthew Sturm (a1) and Svetlana Stuefer (a2)


Historically, there has been considerable interest in establishing the relationship between wind-blown snow flux (Q) and wind speed. By monitoring the drift growth at snow fences in Arctic Alaska during three winters, we computed Q for 36 distinct transport events. Each fence was instrumented with depth sounders to measure deposition rates. The majority of events (31) occurred between November and February, despite winter extending from October to June. On average, five substantial snow deposition events (SDEs) occurred at each fence per winter. The mean flux during SDEs was 0.16, 0.19 and 0.29 kg s−1 m−1 at Barrow, Imnavait Creek and Franklin Bluffs, respectively, the differences in Q explained by the different wind regimes at the three sites. To place these flux measurements in perspective, we reviewed all previous experimental values of Q, with special attention to height and time over which the fluxes were measured. The new data help fill a range of wind speeds (12–18 m s−1) where prior results have been sparse. Combined, the full data define a diffuse cloud best represented by upper and lower bounding equations Q U = 1.3 × 10−3 w 2.5 and Q L = 3.3 × 10−9 w 6.5, where w is wind speed (>5 m s−1). We suggest that these bounds, rather than a single equation, provide the best way to estimate snow fluxes.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Wind-blown flux rates derived from drifts at arctic snow fences
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Wind-blown flux rates derived from drifts at arctic snow fences
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Wind-blown flux rates derived from drifts at arctic snow fences
      Available formats



Hide All
Benson, CS (1982) Reassessment of winter precipitation on Alaska’s Arctic Slope and measurements on the flux of wind blown snow. Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK (Report UAG-R288)
Benson, CS and Sturm, M (1993) Structure and wind transport of seasonal snow on the Arctic slope of Alaska. Ann. Glaciol., 18, 261267
Berg, NH (1986) Blowing snow at a Colorado alpine site: measurements and implications. Arct. Alp. Res., 18(2), 147161
Bintanja, R (2001) Snowdrift sublimation in a katabatic wind region of the Antarctic ice sheet. J. Appl. Meteorol., 40(11),19521966 (doi: 10.1175/1520-0450(2001)040<1952:SSIAKW>2.0.CO;2)
Björk, RG and Molau, U (2007) Ecology of Alpine snowbeds and the impact of global change. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 39(1), 3443 (doi: 10.1657/1523-0430(2007)39[34: EOASAT]2.0.CO;2)
Black, RF (1954) Precipitation at Barrow, Alaska, greater than recorded. Eos, 35(2), 203206
Box, JE and Steffen, K (2001) Sublimation on the Greenland ice sheet from automated weather station observations. J. Geophys. Res., 106(D24), 33 96533 981 (doi: 10.1029/2001JD900219)
Chritin, V, Bolognesi, R and Gubler, H (1999) FlowCapt: a new acoustic sensor to measure snowdrift and wind velocity for avalanche forecasting. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 30(1–3), 125133 (doi: 10.1016/S0165-232X(99)00012-9)
Cierco, F-X, Naaim-Bouvet, F and Bellot, H (2007) Acoustic sensors for snowdrift measurements: how should they be used for research purposes? Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 49(1), 7487 (doi: 10.1016/j.coldregions.2007.01.002)
Clifton, A, Rüedi, JD and Lehning, M (2006) Snow saltation threshold measurements in a drifting-snow wind tunnel. J. Glaciol., 52(179), 585596 (doi: 10.3189/172756506781828430)
Cooley, KR, Huber, AL, Robertson, DC and Zuzel, JF (1981) Effects of snowdrift management on rangeland runoff. In Shafer, BA ed. Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Western Snow Conference, 14–16 April 1981, St George, UT, USA. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 5563
Cornish, V (1902) On snow-waves and snow-drifts in Canada, with notes on the ‘snow-mushrooms’ of the Selkirk Mountains. Geogr. J., 20(2), 137173
Déry, SJ and Yau, MK (2002) Large-scale mass-balance effects of blowing snow and surface sublimation. J. Geophys. Res., 107(D23), 4679 (doi: 10.1029/2001JD001251)
Dingle, WRJ and Radok, U (1961) Antarctic snow drift and mass transport. IASH Publ. 55 (General Assembly of Helsinki 1960 – Antarctic Glaciology), 7787
Doorschot, JJJ, Lehning, M and Vrouwe, A (2004) Field measurements of snow-drift threshold and mass fluxes, and related model simulations. Bound.-Layer Meteorol., 113(3), 347368 (doi: 10.1007/s10546-004-8659-z)
Doumani, GA (1967) Surface structures in snow. In Oura, H ed. Physics of snow and ice. Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 11191136
Dyunin, AK (1963) Solid flux of snow-bearing air flow. NRCC Tech. Translation 1102. National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa
Dyunin, AK and Kotlyakov, VM (1980) Redistribution of snow in mountains under the effect of heavy snow-storms. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 3(4), 287294 (doi: 10.1016/0165-232X(80)90035X)
Fahnestock, MA, Scambos, TA, Shuman, CA, Arthern, RJ, Winebrenner, DP and Kwok, R (2000) Snow megadune fields on the East Antarctic Plateau: extreme atmosphere–ice interaction. Geophys. Res. Lett., 27(22), 37193722 (doi: 10.1029/1999GL011248)
Font, D, Mases, M and Vilaplana, JM (1998) Experimental mass-flux measurements: a comparison of different gauges with estimated theoretical data. Ann. Glaciol., 26, 225230
Gordon, M, Biswas, S, Taylor, PA, Hanesiak, J, Albarran-Melzer, M and Fargey, S (2010) Measurements of drifting and blowing snow at Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada during the star project. Atmos.– Ocean, 48(2),81100 (doi: 10.3137/AO1105.2010)
Guyomarc’h, G and Durand, Y (2010) Key parameters for local drifting snow events. In Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop 2010, Squaw Valley, CA. International Snow Science Workshop, 706711
Guyomarc’h, G and Mérindol, L (1998) Validation of an application for forecasting blowing snow. Ann. Glaciol., 26, 138143
Henderson, EP (1956) Large nivation hollows near Knob Lake, Quebec. J. Geol., 64(6), 607616
Hinkel, KM and Hurd, JKJ (2006) Permafrost destabilization and thermokarst following snow fence installation, Barrow, Alaska, U.S.A. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 38(4), 530539
Kikuchi, T (1981) A wind tunnel study of the aerodynamic roughness associated with drifting snow. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 5(2), 107118 (doi: 10.1016/0165-232X(81)90045-8)
King, JC, Anderson, PS and Mann, GW (2001) The seasonal cycle of sublimation at Halley, Antarctica. J. Glaciol., 47(156), 18 (doi: 10.3189/172756501781832548)
Kobayashi, S (1972) Studies of snow transport in low-level drifting snow. Contrib. Inst. Low Temp. Sci., Ser. A 24, 158 [in Japanese with English summary]
Komarov, AA (1963) Some rules on the migration and deposition of snow in western Siberia and their application to control measures. NRCC Tech. Translation 1094. Division of Building Research, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa
Lewis, WV (1939) Snow-patch erosion in Iceland. Geogr. J., 94(2), 153161
Li, S and Sturm, M (2002) Patterns of wind-drifted snow on the Alaska arctic slope detected with ERS-1 interferometric SAR. J. Glaciol., 48(163), 495504 (doi: 10.3189/172756502781831151)
Lied, NT (1963) Notes on sastrugi and snow dune observations, A.N.A.R.E. satellite station, Vestfold Hills, 1961. Austral. Meteorol. Mag. 40, 3546
Liston, GE and Sturm, M (1998) A snow-transport model for complex terrain. J. Glaciol., 44(148), 498516
Mahesh, A, Eager, R, Campbell, JR and Spinhirne, JD (2003) Observations of blowing snow at the South Pole. J. Geophys. Res., 108(D22), 4707 (doi: 10.1029/2002JD003327)
Martinelli, M and Ozment, A (1985) Some strength features of natural snow surfaces that affect snow drifting. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 11(3), 267283 (doi: 10.1016/0165-232X(85)90051-5)
Maykut, GA and Untersteiner, N (1971) Some results from a time-dependent thermodynamic model of sea ice. J. Geophys. Res., 76(6), 15501575 (doi: 10.1029/JC076i006p01550)
Meister, R (1987) Wind systems and snow transport in Alpine topography. IAHS Publ. 162 (Symposium at Davos 1986 – Avalanche Formation, Movement and Effects), 265278
Mellor, M and Fellers, G (1986) Concentration and flux of windblown snow. CRREL Spec. Rep. 86–11
Moss, R (1938) The physics of an ice-cap. Geogr. J., 92(3), 211231
Olsson, PQ, Hinzman, LD, Sturm, M, Liston, GE and Kane, DL (2002) Surface climate and snow–weather relationships of the Kuparuk Basin on Alaska’s Arctic Slope. ERDC/CRREL Tech. Rep. TR-02-10)
Pomeroy, JW (1988) Wind transport of snow. (PhD thesis, University of Saskatchewan)
Pomeroy, JW and Gray, DM (1995) Snow accumulation, relocation and management. N H RI Science Report 7. National Hydrology Research Institute, Environment Canada, Saskatoon, Sask.
Schmidt, RA (1972) Sublimation of wind-transported snow: a model. USDA Forest Serv. Res. Pap. RM-90
Schmidt, RA (1980) Threshold wind-speeds and elastic impact in snow transport. J. Glaciol., 26(94), 453467
Schmidt, RA (1986) Transport rate of drifting snow and the mean wind speed profile. Bound. -Layer Meteorol., 34(3), 213241
Seligman, G (1936) Snow structure and ski fields: being an account of snow and ice forms met with in nature, and a study on avalanches and snowcraft. Macmillan, London
Sturm, M and Liston, GE (2003) The snow cover on lakes of the Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska, USA. J. Glaciol., 49(166), 370380 (doi: 10.3189/172756503781830539)
Sturm, M, Holmgren, J and Liston, GE (1995) A seasonal snow cover classification scheme for local to global applications. J. Climate, 8(5), 12611283
Sturm, M, Holmgren, J and Perovich, DK (2002) Winter snow cover on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean at the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA): temporal evolution and spatial variability. J. Geophys. Res., 107(C10), 8047 (doi: 10.1029/2000JC000400)
Tabler, RD (1975) Predicting profiles of snowdrifts in topographic catchments. In Wastuchek, JN ed. Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Western Snow Conference 23–25 April 1975, Coronado, California. Western Snow Conference, Soda Springs, CA, 8797
Tabler, RD (1980) Geometry and density of drifts formed by snow fences. J. Glaciol., 26(94), 405419
Tabler, RD (2003) Controlling blowing and dfifting snow with snow fences and road design. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, DC. (National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 20-7(147))
Tabler, RD, Benson, CS, Santana, BW and Ganguly, P (1990) Estimating snow transport from wind speed records: estimates versus measurements at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. In Shafer, B, Marron, JK and Troendle, C eds. Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Western Snow Conference, 17–19 April 1990, Sacramento, CA, USA. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 6172
Takeuchi, M (1980) Vertical profile and horizontal increase of drift snow transport. J. Fac. Sci., Hokkaido Univ., 6(1), 143156 J. Glaciol., 26(94), 481–492
Thorn, CE (1976) Quantitative evaluation of nivation in the Colorado Front Range. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., 87(8), 11691178 (doi: 10.1130/0016-7606(1976)87<1169:QEON IT>2.0.CO;2 )
Van den Broeke, MR (1997) Spatial and temporal variation of sublimation on Antarctica: results of a high-resolution general circulation model. J. Geophys. Res., 102(D25), 29 76529 777 (doi: 10.1029/97JD01862)
Vionnet, V and 7 others (in press) Occurrence of blowing snow events at an alpine site over a 10-year period: observations and modelling. Adv. Water Resour. (doi: 10.1016/j.advwatres.2012.05.004)
Walker, DA, Billings, WD and Molenaar, JG (2001) Snow–vegetation interactions in tundra environments. In Jones, HG, Pomeroy, JW, Walker, DA and Hoham, RW eds. Snow ecology: an interdisciplinary examination of snow-covered ecosystems. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 266324
Wendler, G (1989) Measuring blowing snow with a photo-electric particle counter at Pole Station, Antarctica. Polarforschung, 59(1–2), 916
Williams, LD (1978) Ice-sheet initiation and climatic influences of expanded snow cover in Arctic Canada. Quat. Res., 10(2), 141149 (doi: 10.1016/0033-5894(78)90097-2)
Zhang, Y, Suzuki, K, Kadota, T and Ohata, T (2004) Sublimation from snow surface in southern mountain taiga of eastern Siberia. J. Geophys. Res., 109(D21), D21103 (doi: 10.1029/2003JD003779)
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed