Figure 1

Ignacio Lopez-Moreno

and 15 more

Manually collected snow data are often considered as ground truth for many applications such as climatological or hydrological studies. However, there are many sources of uncertainty that are not quantified in detail. For the determination of water equivalent of snow cover (SWE), different snow core samplers and scales are used, but they are all based on the same measurement principle. We conducted two field campaigns with 9 samplers commonly used in observational measurements and research in Europe and northern America to better quantify uncertainties when measuring depth, density and SWE with core samplers. During the first campaign, as a first approach to distinguish snow variability measured at the plot and at the point scale, repeated measurements were taken along two 20 m long snow pits. The results revealed a much higher variability of SWE at the plot scale (resulting from both natural variability and instrumental bias) compared to repeated measurements at the same spot (resulting mostly from error induced by observers or very small scale variability of snow depth). The exceptionally homogeneous snowpack found in the second campaign permitted to almost neglect the natural variability of the snowpack properties and focus on the separation between instrumental bias and error induced by observers. Under such measurement conditions, the uncertainty in bulk snow density estimation is about 5% for an individual instrument and is close to 10% among different instruments. Results confirmed that instrumental bias exceeded both the natural variability and the error induced by observers, even in the case when observers were not familiar with a given snow core sampler.