The Lyte probe journeyed to Alaska’s North Slope as part of the NASA SnowEx Arctic spring campaign. During this campaign, the Lyte probe was deployed alongside the SnowMicroPen (SMP), a highly regarded Swiss instrument renowned as the gold standard for snow penetrometers due to its exceptional sensitivity and precision. The SMP utilizes a motor and an encoder wheel to measure over 200 points per millimeter. However, due to their considerable cost, the SMP is relatively scarce, making it crucial to collect colocated data when available.
The Arctic North Slope is characterized by remarkably variable snow conditions. Persistent winds constantly alter the snow surface, occasional early-season rain events create substantial ice layers, and the overall environment is bitterly cold. Moreover, the ground beneath the snow is typically covered in tussocks—large tufts of dense grass and moss—which can result in depth variations of up to 30cm within just 15cm of lateral distance. These factors collectively present a significant challenge for any instrument aiming to collect accurate measurements, let alone establish comparable datasets.
Fortunately, through the dedicated efforts of young snow scientists committed to the cause, we were able to obtain some comparative profiles. Even in the extreme cold of -35°C, our profiles remained highly comparable to those generated by the SMP. This tells us a couple things about the probe:
1. The Lyte probe demonstrated resilience in extreme cold conditions, with no noticeable adverse effects. This is particularly reassuring given that the probe’s force sensor is a custom design. While it is intended for cold environments, it had not previously undergone field testing under such extreme conditions.
2. The alignment of snow layers in relation to the SMP data indicates that our depth algorithm is achieving a new levels of accuracy.
We take pride in this accomplishment, as it not only underscores the Lyte probe’s reliability in extreme cold but also signifies progress in our pursuit of precise snow measurements.
Have a look for yourself and let us know what you think!