Time-resolved measurements of the densities of individual frozen hydrometeors and of fresh snowfall
Abstract. It is a challenge to obtain accurate measurements of the microphysical properties of delicate, structurally complex, frozen and semi-frozen hydrometeors. We present a new technique for the real-time measurement of the density of freshly fallen individual snowflakes. A new thermal-imaging instrument, the Differential Emissivity Imaging Disdrometer (DEID), is shown through laboratory and field experiments to be capable of providing accurate estimates of individual snowflake and bulk-snow hydrometeor density (which can be interpreted as snow-to-liquid ratio or SLR). The method exploits the rate of heat transfer during the melting of a hydrometeor on a heated metal plate, which is a function of the temperature difference between the hotplate surface and the top of the hydrometeor. The product of the melting speed and melting time yields an equivalent particle thickness normal to the hotplate surface, which can then be used in combination with the particle mass and area on the plate to determine a particle density. Uncertainties in estimates of particle density are approximately 4 % based on calibrations with laboratory-produced particles made from water and frozen solutions of salt and water, and from field comparisons with both high-resolution imagery of falling snow and traditional snowpack density measurements obtained at 12-hour intervals. For 17 storms, individual particle densities vary from 19 to 495 kg m-3 and storm-mean snow densities vary from 40 to 100 kg m-3. We observe probability distribution functions for hydrometeor density that are nearly Gaussian with kurtoses of ≈ 3 and skewnesses of ≈ 0.01.
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