IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


23rd March, 2024 Geography


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New technique devised to measure water held in snowpacks, could help manage supply.



  • In mountainous or in higher altitude areas that experience a winter season, precipitation can fall in the form of snow. Snow that has fallen on the ground and does not melt for months due to below-freezing temperatures is called snowpack.

Layers and Depth

  • Snowpack can consist of multiple layers of snow, each one from a different snowfall, that become compacted under the weight of the subsequent layers that lie on top.
  • The depth of the snowpack is influenced not only by the amount of snowfall but also by temperature and wind.
  • Strong winds can evaporate snow cover, eroding the top layers of the snowpack, while an increase in temperature can cause layers to melt.


  • Snowpacks are an important water resource that feed streams and rivers as they melt, sometimes leading to flooding.
  • Snowpacks provide water to down-slope communities for drinking and agriculture.
  • High-latitude or high-elevation snowpacks contribute mass to glaciers in their accumulation zones, where annual snow deposition exceeds annual melting.

Utilizations of the study of snowpacks

  • Assessing the formation and stability of snowpacks is important in the study and prediction of avalanches.
  • Scientists study the physical properties of snow under different conditions and their evolution, and more specifically snow metamorphism, snow hydrology (that is, the contribution of snow melt to catchment hydrology), the evolution of snow cover with climate change and its effect on the ice–albedo feedback and hydrology, both on the ground and by using remote sensing.
  • Snow is also studied in a more global context of impact on animal habitats and plant succession. An important effort is put into snow classification, both as a hydrometeor and on the ground.
  • Snowpack modeling is done for snow stability, flood forecasting, water resource management, and climate studies.


  • The snowpack can be measured using instruments, such as snow depth sensors and snow pillows. A snow depth sensor measures the depth of the snowpack using sound waves.
  • A snow pillow is a large pouch containing antifreeze with a measuring tube sticking upwards out of it. The snow pillow is laid on the ground, and as snow piles on top of it, the weight of the snow pushes the antifreeze out of the pouch and into the measuring tube.
  • Snow pillows are used to measure the weight of snow and determine the volume of water that would be produced if the snowpack melted.


Discus about the importance of study of snowpcks and its application. 150 words