The flow of meltwater through porous snow is a fundamental process in hydrology that remains poorly understood. Part of the challenge is that percolation of snowmelt through dry snow is highly heterogeneous in space, forming vertical preferential melt channels. In addition, meltwater can also readily refreeze onto the existing snow, modifying the permeability structure of the snowpack. In this work, we describe the coupled processes of preferential melt flow and melt refreezing using a continuum model and study the complex interactions between melt flow and refreezing. Our model captures the formation of ice pipes, which are low porosity snow annulus that are commonly observed in the field. Our results also demonstrate that melt refreezing and preferential infiltration reshape the porosity structure of snow and impacts its thermal and mass transport in highly nonlinear ways that are not captured by simpler models.
This work is led by postdoc associate Dr. Adrian Moure, and is a collaborative effort with PhD student Nathan Jones, Josh Pawlak (Caltech SURF 2021) and Dr. Colin Meyer (Dartmouth).
Read the paper here.