Measuring the Heat Conductivity of Snow (Florent Domine)

Video Shot in: 2009

Dr. Florent Domine is “Directeur de Recherche,” a CNRS position at Takuvik Joint International Laboratory, hosted by Universit√© Laval in Quebec city. Here he describes snow as an insulator with thermal properties that help buffer cold waves during winter. The heat conductivity of snow is measured using a heated needle to determine its insulating properties. Additional instruments measure density and other characteristics. Snow reflects light, contributing to cooling the Earth’s atmosphere, but also limits ground cooling in the winter, leading to complex warming and cooling effects on the planet. The removal of snow would cause the planet to warm, but the extent of this warming is unclear due to complex positive and negative feedbacks that have not been fully studied. Changes in the physical properties of snow due to changes in climate should be included in climate models, as they will have tremendous effects on the thawing of permafrost. The insulating effect of snow depends on complex interactions between snow, vegetation, and climate, and the changes in these factors can result in either a positive or negative feedback on permafrost thaw.