Inter- and Transdisciplinary Sessions
Disciplinary sessions AS–GM
Disciplinary sessions GMPV–TS

Session programme


CR – Cryospheric Sciences

CR3 – Snow and ice: properties, processes, hazards


All components of the cryosphere are strongly impacted by climate change and have been undergoing significant changes over the past decades. Most visibly, glaciers are shrinking and thinning. Snow cover and duration is reduced, and permafrost, in both Arctic and alpine environments, is thawing. Changes in sea ice cover and characteristics have attracted widespread attention, and changes in ice sheets are monitored with care and concern. 
Risks associated with one or several of these cryosphere components have been present throughout history. However, with ongoing climate change, we expect changes in the magnitude and frequency of hazards with profound implications for risks. New or growing glacier lakes pose a threat to downstream communities through the potential for sudden drainage. Thawing permafrost can destabilize mountain slopes, and eventually result in large landslide or destructive rock and ice avalanches. An accelerated rate of permafrost degradation in low-land areas poses risk to existing and planned infrastructure and raises concerns about large-scale emission of greenhouse gases currently trapped in Arctic permafrost. Decreased summertime sea ice extent may produce both risks and opportunities in terms of large-scale climate feedbacks and alterations, coastal vulnerability, and new access to transport routes and natural resources. Eventually, rapid acceleration of outlet glacier ice discharge and collapse of ice sheets is of major concern for sea level change. 
This session invites contributions across all cryosphere components that address risks associated with observed or projected physical processes. Contributions considering more than one cryosphere component (e.g. glaciers and permafrost) are particularly encouraged. Contributions can consider hazards and risks related to changes in the past, present or future. Furthermore, contributions may consider one or several components of risks (i.e. natural hazards, exposure, vulnerability) as long as conceptual clarity is ensured.

Convener: Christian Huggel | Co-conveners: Michael Krautblatter, Matthew Westoby
| Attendance Tue, 05 May, 08:30–10:15 (CEST)

Snow cover characteristics (e.g. spatial distribution, surface and internal physical properties) are continuously evolving over a wide range of scales due to meteorological conditions, such as precipitation, wind and radiation.
Most processes occurring in the snow cover depend on the vertical and horizontal distribution of its physical properties, which are primarily controlled by the microstructure of snow (e.g. density, specific surface area). In turn, snow metamorphism changes the microstructure, leading to feedback loops that affect the snow cover on coarser scales. This can have far-reaching implications for a wide range of applications, including snow hydrology, weather forecasting, climate modelling, and avalanche hazard forecasting or remote sensing of snow. The characterization of snow thus demands synergetic investigations of the hierarchy of processes across the scales ranging from explicit microstructure-based studies to sub-grid parameterizations for unresolved processes in large-scale phenomena (e.g. albedo, drifting snow).

This session is therefore devoted to modelling and measuring snow processes across scales. The aim is to gather researchers from various disciplines to share their expertise on snow processes in seasonal and perennial snowpacks. We invite contributions ranging from “small” scales, as encountered in microstructure studies, over “intermediate” scales typically relevant for 1D snowpack models, up to “coarse” scales, that typically emerge for spatially distributed modelling over mountainous or polar snow- and ice-covered terrain. Specifically, we welcome contributions reporting results from field, laboratory and numerical studies of the physical and chemical evolution of snowpacks, statistical or dynamic downscaling methods of atmospheric driving data, assimilation of in-situ and remotely sensed observations, representation of sub-grid processes in coarse-scale models, and evaluation of model performance and associated uncertainties.

This session is closely linked to the session 'Snow and ice accumulation, melt, and runoff generation in catchment hydrology', which addresses monitoring and modelling of snow for hydrologic applications.

Co-organized by AS4/CL2/HS2.1
Convener: Nora Helbig | Co-conveners: Neige CalonneECSECS, Richard L.H. Essery, Henning Loewe, Vincent Vionnet
| Attendance Thu, 07 May, 14:00–15:45 (CEST)

This session is devoted to the dynamics of dense and powder snow avalanches and their accompanying transitional regimes. One focus is their interaction with, and impact on, vulnerable elements, such as buildings, protection dams, forests, and roads. We welcome novel experimental and computational contributions including, but not limited to the topics of avalanche dynamics and related processes, physical vulnerability of structures impacted by snow avalanches, avalanche hazard zoning and avalanche mitigation strategies. These include field, laboratory and numerical studies that rely on new methods and techniques (radars, drone, satellite, etc.) as well as practical case studies.

Furthermore, we solicit novel contributions from the area of granular flows, viscoplastic flows, density currents, turbulent flows, as well as contributions from other gravitational mass flows communities, which can improve our understanding and modeling of snow avalanche propagation and their interaction with natural or man-made structures.

While the main focus of this session is on snow avalanche dynamics from basic knowledge to mitigation strategies, it is closely linked to session CR3.4 entitled "Snow avalanche formation: from snow mechanics to avalanche detection" which addresses avalanche formation, detection and forecasting.

Co-organized by NH3
Convener: Thierry Faug | Co-conveners: Jan-Thomas Fischer, Florence Naaim-Bouvet, Betty Sovilla
| Attendance Fri, 08 May, 16:15–18:00 (CEST)

Snow avalanches range among the most prominent natural hazards which threaten mountain communities worldwide. Snow avalanche formation is a complex critical phenomenon which starts with a failure processes at the scale of snow crystals and ends with the release of a large volume of snow at a scale of up to several hundred meters. The practical application of avalanche formation is avalanche forecasting, requiring a thorough understanding of the physical and mechanical properties of snow as well as the influence of meteorological boundary conditions (e.g. precipitation, wind and radiation).

This session aims to improve our understanding of avalanche formation processes and to foster the application to avalanche forecasting. We therefore welcome contributions from novel field, laboratory and numerical studies on topics including, but not limited to, the mechanical properties of snow, snow cover simulations, snow instability assessment, meteorological driving factors including drifting and blowing snow, spatial variability, avalanche release mechanics, remote avalanche detection and avalanche forecasting. While the main focus of this session is on avalanche formation, detection and forecasting, it is closely linked to session ‘CR3. Snow avalanche dynamics: from basic physical knowledge to mitigation strategies’, which addresses avalanche dynamics, risk assessment and mitigation strategies.

Co-organized by NH3
Convener: Johan Gaume | Co-conveners: Ingrid Reiweger, Alec van Herwijnen
| Attendance Fri, 08 May, 14:00–15:45 (CEST)

By accumulating precipitation at high elevations, snow and ice change the hydrologic response of a watershed. Water stored in the snow pack and in glaciers thus represents an important component of the hydrological budget in many regions of the world and a sustainment to life during dry seasons. Predicted impacts of climate change in headwater catchments (including a shift from snow to rain, earlier snowmelt and a decrease in peak snow accumulation) will affect both water resources distribution and water uses at multiple scales, with potential implications for energy and food production.
Our knowledge about snow/ice accumulation and melt patterns is highly uncertain, because of both limited availability and inherently large spatial variability of hydrological and weather data in remote areas at high elevations. This translates into limited process understanding, especially in a warming climate. The objective of this session is to integrate specialists focusing on snow accumulation and melt within the context of catchment hydrology and snow as a source for glacier ice and melt, hence streamflow. The aim is to integrate and share knowledge and experiences about experimental research, remote sensing and modelling.
Contributions addressing the following topics are welcome:
- experimental research on snowmelt runoff processes and potential implementation in hydrological models;
- development of novel strategies for snowmelt runoff modelling in various (or changing) climatic and land-cover conditions;
- evaluation of remote-sensing (time-lapse imagery, laser scanners, radar, optical photography, thermal and hyperspectral technologies) or in-situ snow products (albedo, snow cover or depth, snow water equivalent) and application for snowmelt runoff calibration, data assimilation, streamflow forecasting or snow and ice physical properties quantification;
- observational and modelling studies that shed new light on hydrological processes in glacier-covered catchments, e.g., impacts of glacier retreat on water resources and water storage dynamic or the application of techniques for tracing water flow paths;
- studies on cryosphere-influenced mountain hydrology, such as landforms at high elevation and their relationship with streamflow, water balance of snow/ice-dominated, mountain regions.

This session is closely linked to session 'Modelling and measuring snow processes across scales', which addresses monitoring and modelling of snow processes across scales.

Public information:
Please check the session materials to see the topic of the session and its organisation: https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2020/sessionAssets/35493/materials.pdf.
Please check the session summary to see the scheduling of displays: https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2020/sessionAssets/35493/summary.pdf.

Co-organized by CR3
Convener: Guillaume Thirel | Co-conveners: Francesco AvanziECSECS, Doris DuethmannECSECS, Abror Gafurov, Juraj Parajka, Rafael PimentelECSECS
| Attendance Tue, 05 May, 08:30–12:30 (CEST)

Atmosphere and Cryosphere are closely linked and need to be investigated as an interdisciplinary subject. Most of the cryospheric areas have undergone severe changes in last decades while such areas have been more fragile and less adaptable to global climate changes. This AS-CR session invites model- and observational-based investigations on any aspects of linkages between atmospheric processes and snow and ice on local, regional and global scales. Emphasis is given on the Arctic, high latitudes and altitudes, mountains, sea ice, Antarctic regions. In particular, we encourage studies that address aerosols (such as Black Carbon, Organic Carbon, dust, volcanic ash, diatoms, bioaerosols, bacteria, etc.) and changes in the cryosphere, e.g., effects on snow/ice melt and albedo. The session also focus on dust transport, aeolian deposition, and volcanic dust, including health, environmental or climate impacts at high latitudes, high altitudes and cold Polar Regions. We include contributions on biological and ecological sciences including dust-organisms interactions, cryoconites, bio-albedo, eco-physiological, biogeochemical and genomic studies. Related topics are light absorbing impurities, cold deserts, dust storms, long-range transport, glaciers darkening, polar ecology, and more. The scientific understanding of the AS-CR interaction needs to be addressed better and linked to the global climate predictions scenarios.

Co-organized by CL2/CR3
Convener: Pavla Dagsson WaldhauserovaECSECS | Co-conveners: Outi Meinander, Marie Dumont, Biagio Di MauroECSECS
| Attendance Mon, 04 May, 10:45–12:30 (CEST)