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Summer Snow

October scan: closing in

Posted: October 10th, 2019 by snowstor

We collected our penultimate scan (the last scan will take place when chips come off and snow is exposed)! This time, we wanted to see how much melt has occurred in fall. Turns out, melt rate is slowing down and the COC still has plenty of snow left (more than 60% by volume of what was put in the pit) to open their season in mid November!

Comparisons of volume change and rate of melt for the 2018 summer (top two graphs) and the 2019 summer (bottom two graphs).

In November, they will remove the tarp and wood chips and we’ll be up one final time to scan the pile. For now, we cross our fingers that we don’t see any absurdly warm weather for the rest of our fall.

August: End of summer data

Posted: August 31st, 2019 by snowstor

We’ve been heading up every two weeks to scan the pile and collected some pretty cool data. The cross section below snows relatively consistent loss of volume – including compaction and some melting. Scanning wasn’t bad with my indispensable field assistant, Molly Murtha, especially if we remembered to bring bug spray.

The dedicated field assistant and I, hard at work.
The snow pile, bird’s eye view (a), showing volume change with color gradation. The two cross sections (b, c) show change over the summer – each colored line refers to one scan.

Across the Fence, a UVM news reporting group, came across my research and thought their viewers would be interested. They did a great job with the story.

June: White Tarp Time

Posted: June 11th, 2019 by snowstor

With some help from their summer training programs, owners Dick and Judy were able to cover the snow pile with white Geofabric to reflect back as much solar radiation as possible.

With some hiccups relating to wind, they finally secured it and now the pile is fully prepped and ready for the hottest part of the year!

The final product: a fully-covered pile.

April: The wood chip cover

Posted: April 21st, 2019 by snowstor

Scanning atop the newly-covered snow pile

Over the past year, the COC has been chipping trees that fell in a recent storm to cover the pile in a ~20+ cm layer of wood chips – with some help from new shipments of wood chips, the snow pile is finally covered. We estimate about 650 cubic meters of wood chips, or about a 28 cm thick layer over the whole pile!

The snow pile, partially covered in chips and dusted with late-season snow.
The fully-covered snow pile!

March: It’s aliiiiiiiive!!!!

Posted: March 5th, 2019 by snowstor

The snow pile is alive and gigantic! Since last summer, the COC has built infrastructure to support snow making down in the pit including a water pipeline, and the installation of three snow guns.

Over the past week or so, the Craftsbury Outdoors Center has pumped water down to airless snow guns to create snow. Snow falls into three large piles and then is broken up, pushed around, and shaped by Excavators and their Piston Bulley.

The breaking and reshaping of the snow pile. Photo credit: Paul Bierman
Excavator closeup. Photo credit: Paul Bierman

Now, a 9300 cubic meter pile sits in a large pit. That’s 45 times larger than our piles last year! We’re now going to let the pile compact before covering it sometime in spring with wood chips. The denser it is, the more challenging it is to melt.

I sit atop the snow pile, for scale, after scanning it.

December: AGU, a huge conference in DC.

Posted: December 16th, 2018 by snowstor

This week I attended the largest conference I’ve ever been to – AGU, or the American Geophysical Union, in Washington DC. I was one of 20,000 people in attendance.

The Washington Convention Center: A massive building filled, this week, with scientists
The AGU Poster session room; 5000 posters in one place!

Themes at this conference ranged from space, to terrestrial ecosystems, to aquatic ecosystems, to ancient ecosystems… it was very all-encompassing (and a little overwhelming). One day I sat in a session about exploring the search for water on Mars then left to listen to a talk on paleoclimate dating procedures.

My partner created this fun infographic on a giant white-board labeled “Show your Science!”

My poster session was a four-hour block on Wednesday morning. Based on other conferences I had attended, I was planning on standing near my poster for some of it, and then when things seems to die down, explore other posters. Well, I did not leave my poster for the entire 4-hour session! When I’d finished giving my research pitch to one person, another curious person would arrive.

I explain my poster to an interested passer-by.

I met a diversity of people studying snow from various angles and had the experience of chatting with two people from the institute from which my research design was based!

Afterwards, my advisor Paul Bierman took me out to lunch as a congratulations. All in all, an exhausting yet exiting day.

November: Scanning the reshaped snow site

Posted: November 5th, 2018 by snowstor

Well, all the snow from our two intrepid piles is gone, finally. Surprisingly, small icy chunks hung on until late October, long enough to see the first snow flakes of fall! Now, however, is prep time for next season.

The edge of the pit – wood chips in back, awaiting emplacement! The trusty four-wheeler shows how massive the pit has become.

The COC has decided to use Site 2, or the “Pond” Site as their Snow Depot. They prepped and reshaped it to fit a large amount of snow, and Landon and I went up to scan it! The pit can hold many thousand cubic meters of snow, all dependent on how high they pile the snow.

I find “tie points” so that the LiDAR can match up scans.

It’ll be exciting to see next seasons’ snow-making process; they need to create a water pipeline and install anchors for their airless snow guns.

In the mean time, I’ll be heading to a conference in December to present our 2018 data!

Scanning a pit instead of a pile

Posted: July 23rd, 2018 by snowstor


Landon and I once again drove up to Craftsbury on a bright summertime Saturday. A bike race was finishing up at Craftsbury and we wound our way around bikes and food to set up the LiDAR at our first site. After graciously thanking bikers for not passing in front of the laser, we completed three scans successfully. I’m grateful for the 12-volt battery that powers the LiDAR, courtesy of Craftsbury and we had no problems apart from a dysfunctional connection with the camera – no colored scans this time.

The Japanese beetles were out in full-force at the lower pile. Aside from the occasional bug, the LiDAR scanned and saved the data without problems. The large pit that had begun to grow in early April has maintained its outward expanse and now the entire eastern side of the pile is now completely caved-in.

Data processed without struggle and, despite the bursts of high humidity and temperature, melt appears steady. Will we be able to see lag-time in response to these extreme summer conditions?

The CHIP site and POND site volumes displayed. The break is where a scan would not process correctly. They’re melting quickly!

Temperature sensors revealed!

Summer Surveying with Landon

Posted: July 23rd, 2018 by snowstor


Today UVM Geology major Landon Williams and I completed surveys of the two piles at Craftsbury. Hot, sunny, and windy helped keep the bugs down while we set up LiDAR around the quickly-melting piles. This scan is the second taken after the upper CHIP pile was disrupted and I’m interested in the added effects of the same amount of wood chips on a significantly smaller pile. Will it slow melt?

No major technical issues aside from the slowly dying 6-year-old Dell laptop, however once we set out to process the scans, the upper pile’s scan proved challenging. The lower pile’s scan processed without problems and it’s melting trend matches previous scans’ melt rate.

Landon’s learning both LiDAR and patience as he works with our old Dell laptop

Opening a pile and spreading snow

Posted: July 12th, 2018 by snowstor

On a really hot day, in the middle of a record breaking heatwave, Lucas got out the excavator and opened up the upper snow pile, removing the chips and a sheet of plastic that seemed to have been causing lots of trouble with the snow and the chips (sliding chips, a large fissure).  With lots of help from others, 6 truckloads of snow made their way to the Village so people could enjoy a bit of sledding and skiing on the night before the 4th of July.  You can read more, hear more, and see more on our publicity page: http://www.uvm.edu/~snowstor/?Page=publicity.html

Snow and chips at 90F on July 3.

The upper snow pile and the excavator – it’s melting! That’s Hannah being interviewed for VPR radio story.

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