Accession Number:



Microstructural Characterization of Snow Compaction Related to Snow Pavements

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Technical Report

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Engineer Research and Development Center Hanover United States

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A first-of-its-kind snow runway for wheeled aircraft operation at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, demonstrated that robust structures can be made of snow that push the limit of what is known about snow strength and how to parameterize it. We conducted a series of laboratory tests to determine the links between snow density and snow compressive strength for very high-density snow structures. We constructed snow samples of varying densities to mimic the snow structures of the constructed runway and measured the resulting snow microstructural and mechanical properties. The goal of this work is to ultimately increase our understanding of the role of density, as an easy-to-measure parameter, in determining snow strength as it relates to snow construction applications e.g., snow runways, tunnels, and foundations and how to best quantify the relationships between microstructure, density, and strength of very dense snow structures. Our values for the mechanical properties compared relatively well with the compilation of past historical results. Based on our results, to a first order approximation, snow microstructure data can be used to help improve snow strength predictions. Important future work would focus on improving these snow microstructure-strength relationships to include the effects of meteorological forcing.

Subject Categories:

  • Snow, Ice and Permafrost
  • Civil Engineering

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