Why Snow is Cool (continued)

Why Snow is Cool (continued)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

alt tag to come

Elizabeth Burakowski (right) and Bob Evans (left), a U.S. Forest Service tower-climbing trainer, team up along with David Hollinger of the USDA Forest Service on the ground (not in view) to place an albedometer on a tower in Durham, N.H.

Building a baseline measure

Burakowski plans to build a baseline measure to understand the effect of land use on albedo in New England. She’ll do this using many tools including satellite imagery, tower and field placement of albedometers, and snow data gathered by a group of 18 “citizen scientists.” It’s a long-term project, and eventually, she even hopes to equip her volunteers with infrared temperature guns to evaluate how changes in albedo affect temperature. Finally, using computer models, she’ll recreate historical levels and project future ones.

Burakowski’s volunteers are all self-proclaimed weather nuts and members of the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRAHs). They tend to be pretty plain spoken.

As for the snow this past winter, citizen-scientist Midge Eliassen says simply, “It was rotten.”

Nonetheless, everyday this winter at solar noon, Eliassen trudged outdoors to measure the snow or lack thereof. Then using a metal tube, she’d take a snow core, cap the tube, and weigh it on a scale.

“They’ve got a calculation to figure out how dense the snow is. It makes a difference in the albedo readings,” says Eliassen, who is also a longtime water monitor for the Lake Sunapee Protective Association. “For example, now I understand the difference in the reflectivity of a conifer versus a deciduous tree canopy. I never knew about albedo until this study.”

Elizabeth Burakowski’s research is funded by NH EPSCoR’s “Ecosystems and Society” project, an award from the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF# EPS-1101245). Find more information about NH EPSCoR.

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Originally published by: 

UNH Today

Written by Carrie Sherman, Editorial and Creative Services.