Measurements of pore-scale water flow through snow using fluorescent particle velocimetry

B. Walter, S. Horender, C. Gromke, M. Lehning

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Fluorescent Particle Tracking Velocimetry (FPTV) measurements of the pore-scale water flow through the pore space of a wet-snow sample are presented to demonstrate the applicability of this measurement technique for snow. For the experiments, ice-cooled water seeded with micron sized fluorescent tracer particles is either sprinkled on top of a snow sample to investigate saturated and unsaturated gravity-driven flow or supplied from a reservoir below the snow sample to generate upward flow driven by capillary forces. The snow sample is illuminated with a laser light sheet and the fluorescent light of the particles transported with the water in the pore space is recorded with a high-speed camera equipped with an optical filter. Tracking algorithms are applied to the images to obtain flow paths and flow velocities. A flow loop found in a pore space for the case of saturated gravity flow together with the tortuosity of the particle trajectories indicate the three-dimensionality of the water flow in wet snow. The average vertical flow velocities in the pore spaces were 11.2 mm s1 for the downward saturated gravity flow and 9.6 mm s1 for the upward flow that is driven by capillary forces for the limited cases presented as examples of the measurement technique. In the case of unsaturated gravity-driven flow, the average and the maximum flow velocities were found to be 30 times smaller than for the saturated gravity flow. Velocity histograms show that the fraction of the total water flowing against the main flow direction was about 3–5%, and that the horizontal velocities average to zero for both the saturated gravity-driven and the capillary flow.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7448-7456
Number of pages9
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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