By Nander Wever
Earlier, we wrote how important snow is in the mass balance of Antarctica. During the campaign, we regularly survey the snow structure. We are particularly interested in the snow density.
The classical way would be to dig snow pits. However, snow pits are very time consuming, and you basically only get information from one specific spot.
We know that snow in Antarctica is highly variable. Not only is there a difference between snow in the interior of Antarctica and near the coast, even at meter distance the snow can be very different due to wind erosion and deposition.
We use a special device to survey the snow microstructure, called a Snow-Micro-Penetrometer (SMP). Whenever possible, we take SMP measurements. For example during our traverses to the drilling sites, regular stops to rest, eat, refuel are done every 30 km. We then quickly take about 10 to 20 samples of snow density in the upper 1 meter of the snowpack, spaced 4-5 meter apart.