13 Sep 2023
 | 13 Sep 2023

A rigorous approach to the specific surface area evolution in snow during temperature gradient metamorphism

Anna Braun, Kévin Fourteau, and Henning Löwe

Abstract. Despite being one of the most fundamental microstructural parameters of snow, the specific surface area (SSA) dynamics during temperature gradient metamorphism (TGM) have so far been addressed only within empirical modeling. To surpass this limitation, we propose a rigorous modeling of SSA dynamics using an exact equation for the temporal evolution of the surface area, fed by pore-scale finite element simulations of the water vapor field coupled with the temperature field on X-ray computed-tomography images. The proposed methodology derives from physics' first principles and thus does not rely on any empirical parameter. Since the calculated evolution of the SSA is highly sensitive to fluctuations in the experimental data, we address the impact of these fluctuations within a stochastic error model. In our simulations, the only poorly constrained physical parameter is the vapor attachment coefficient α onto ice. We address this problem by simulating the SSA evolution for a wide range of α and estimate optimal values by minimizing the differences between simulations and experiments. This methodology suggests that α lies in the intermediate range 10-3 < α < 10-1 and slightly varies between experiments. Also, our results suggest a transition of the value of α in one TGM experiment, which can be explained by a transition in the underlying surface morphology. Overall, we are able to reproduce very subtle variations in the SSA evolution with correlations of R2 = 0.95 and 0.99, respectively, for the two considered TGM time series. Finally, our work highlights the necessity of including kinetics effects and of using realistic microstructures to comprehend the evolution of SSA during TGM.

Anna Braun, Kévin Fourteau, and Henning Löwe

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1947', Z.R. Courville, 12 Oct 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Anna Braun, 22 Dec 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1947', Thomas Kaempfer, 16 Oct 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC2', Anna Braun, 22 Dec 2023
Anna Braun, Kévin Fourteau, and Henning Löwe
Anna Braun, Kévin Fourteau, and Henning Löwe


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Short summary
The specific surface of snow dictates key physical properties and continuously evolves in natural snowpacks, referred to as metamorphism. This work develops a rigorous, physical model for this evolution, which is able to reproduce X-ray tomography measurements without using unphysical tuning parameters. Our results emphasize that snow crystal growth on micrometer scales ultimately controls the pace of metamorphism.