22 Aug 2022
22 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Monitoring snowpack SWE and temperature using RFID tags as wireless sensors

Mathieu Le Breton1,2, Éric Larose1, Laurent Baillet1, Yves Lejeune3, and Alec van Herwijnen4 Mathieu Le Breton et al.
  • 1ISTerre, Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, Grenoble, F-38000, France
  • 2Géolithe Innov, Géolithe, Crolles, F-38920, France
  • 3CEN-CNRM, Météo-France, CNRS, Saint-Martin-d’Hères, F-38400, France
  • 4WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, 7260, Switzerlanld

Abstract. This work shows that passive radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags can be used as low-cost contactless sensors, to measure the variations in snow water equivalent (SWE) of a snowpack. RFID tags are produced massively to remotely identify industrial goods, hence are available commercially off-the-shelf at very low-cost. The introduced measurement system consists of a vertical profile of RFID tags installed before the first snowfall, interrogated continuously by a 865–868 MHz reader that remains above the snowpack. The system deduces the SWE variations from the increase of phase delay induced by the new layers of fresh snow which slows the propagation of the waves. The method is tested both in a controlled laboratory environment, and outdoors on the French national reference center of Col de Porte, to cross-check the results against a solid reference dataset (cosmic rays, precipitation weighting, temperature monitoring, and snow pit surveys). The technical challenges solved concern multipathing interferences, snowmelt acceleration during reheats, measurement discontinuity, and wet snow influence. This non-contact and non-destructive RFID technique can estimate the SWE of dry snow, with the accuracy of ±3−30 kg/m2 depending on the number of tags and antennas. In addition, the system can monitor the snow temperature with 1 °C accuracy and spatialization, using dedicated sensors embedded in the tags.

Mathieu Le Breton et al.

Status: open (until 24 Oct 2022)

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Mathieu Le Breton et al.

Mathieu Le Breton et al.


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Short summary
We monitor the quantity of snow on the ground with passive radiofrequency identification (RFID) tags. Tags are produced in billions every year, they are cheap and small. They are interrogated wirelessly across a snowpack by a fixed reader above. The changes in the radiofrequency phase delay reflects the changes in quantity of snow – the snow water equivalent. Besides, a temperature sensor in each tags monitored the snow temperature.