Group pictures on Friday (pic D. Charlieu)
Photo: D. Charlieu. 6th SSWS Group picture
The goal of the Snow Science Winter School is to teach the use of modern field quantification methods for snow cover in a field work oriented training school. The modern methods require experience and specific know-how to achieve high-quality results, necessitating an activity to provide these means to a new generation of young scientists. In 2020, the school was organized for the 6th time by the Snow Research Center, CNRM (France), SLF (Switzerland) and FMI (Finland).

It took place in Col du Lautaret, near Grenoble, France, from 16 - 22 February 2020. The SAJF facilities at Col du Lautaret allowed hosting the 24 students with direct access by foot and snowshoes to the field sites. Located at 2100 m elevation, surrounded by high alpine peaks, the site is very much suited to offer to the students a real experience of field measurements in an alpine environment. The theme of the snow school was this time snow in a changing climate, impact on humans and nature, including an evening event that gathered local actors involved in mountain environment and climate change topics. Two full field days were organized at sites near Col du Lautaret and gave a first feeling for a self-organized measurement campaign. In addition to field practice, classroom lectures covered topics from basis of snow physics to physical snow models and remote sensing applications.

Field exercises and final report

The main purpose of the school was to familiarize students with current and emerging techniques for objective characterization of the snowpack for various applications. Traditional methods for snow quantification were also covered. The teaching method adopted was a hands-on approach in an alpine environment, supported by a poster on each instrument method displayed during the week. Field exercises typically took place in the morning. For the field exercises and subsequent reporting, the students were assigned to small groups of 3-4 people.

Photo: M. Dumont. Instruments demonstration on density measurements with different instruments
Photo: M. Dumont. Density measurement demonstration
Two days were full day in the field at two different sites: open and forested area, covering different slope angles and aspects enabling student to observe the variability of snowpack properties. Their two field days aims at addressing one of the following topics: A/ Snowpack variability; B/ Comparing measurements and simulations with the model Crocus; C/ Snowpack evolution and meteorological drivers. Field sites were reached with snowshoes and groups were led by mountain guides. Ends of afternoon were dedicated to data cleaning and processing, with the help of the lecturers. The last day of the school was dedicated to an interactive session with the lecturers about data analysis as well as 10 minutes presentations of the measurements done by each group. In order to gain their study credits for the school, each group of students had to prepare a report describing the methods, results and interpretation of their field work in view of the assigned topic A/, B/, or C/.

The daily activities consisted of the following:

Monday Feb. 17
How does a snowpack look like? Basic introduction on snow pit and snowpack stratigraphy. After digging a snow pit and looking at snow crystals with magnifier, the students had to provide 3 words to describe snow. The exercise took place in the immediate vicinity of the SAJF facilities. An interactive session took place afterward to wrap up student suggestions.

Photo: M. Dumont SSA measurements with DUFISSS
Photo: M. Dumont SSA measurements with DUFISSS
Tuesday Feb. 18
The morning was dedicated to an introduction to the various types of available instruments, with a demonstration of their usage followed by guided operation of the instruments by students in small groups. Each instrument was handled by a lecturer familiar with the use of the instrument in the field. One exercise was devoted also to classical methods for snow characterization (snow pit). The exercise took place in the immediate vicinity of the SAFJ facilities.

Wednesday Feb. 19 & Thursday Feb. 20
The students were in the field from the morning to mid-afternoon, performing measurements to characterize the snowpack with all the instruments available and address the attributed topic A, B or C. Two sites were studied (forested and open). Students were led by mountain guides to reach the site. The student groups operated mostly independently, but lecturers were available for guidance as needed. Prior to the measurements, they had to define the measurement protocol (which measurements, where, etc) they want to follow for those 2 days of measurements.

Friday Feb. 21
The morning was dedicated to data cleaning, processing and analyzing, in interaction with the lecturers. In the afternoon, each group presented in 10 minutes their measurements and preliminary analysis, in view of the attributed topic A, B or C.