Liquid saturation and porosity control most of the important material properties of wet snow, hence accurate measurements of these two parameters is of the utmost importance for both field research and glaciological applications. For example, the movement of liquid water through snow is highly sensitive to the volume of water present and accurate measurements of the water saturation are necessary in order to infer the temporal and spatial variations in the flow field. Nevertheless, most of the instruments in use are not capable of making accurate determinations of saturation.
An error analysis shows that only direct measurements of the liquid volume can provide accurate values of water saturation, hence the melting calorimeter is inherently inaccurate. While centrifuges extract some of the liquid for direct measurement, there is always some residual liquid left depending on the grain size and structural parameters of the ice matrix. Therefore, some uncertainty exists over the interpretation of the data obtained from centrifuges. High-frequency capacitance probes can be used either in situ or on the surface and are very sensitive to the volume of liquid present. Capacitance probes are by far the best of the available devices. Remote-sensing techniques, like the active microwave system, require more development for use in operational forecasting schemes and as research tools.