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Smartphone-based measurements of the optical properties of snow

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Abstract

Snow is a highly complex medium composed of ice crystals of various shapes and sizes. Knowledge of its intrinsic optical properties such as scattering and absorption coefficients is tantamount to radiative transfer models in climate research. The absorption coefficient, in particular, allows us to access information about light-absorbing particles contained in the snow. In contrast to snow’s apparent properties such as the albedo, measuring the intrinsic properties is challenging. Here, we present a simple apparatus that can measure bulk optical properties of snow using readily available components and a smartphone camera, and a robust diffuse-optical framework for data analysis. We demonstrate the instrument both on scattering phantoms with known scattering and absorption coefficients and in the field. Its low cost, simplicity, and portability uniquely qualify this setup for large-scale field work, undergraduate education, and citizen science.

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References

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Data availability

All raw images, reflectance spectra, derived data, and the MATLAB code for image analysis and albedo calculation are published in Ref. [39]. An online version of SNICAR-ADv3 [34] can be found in Ref. [40].

39. A. Marcus, “Diffuse-optical data set measured with a smartphone-based sensor on Potato Hill, Oregon, USA,” Zenodo, 15 February 2022, https://zenodo.org/record/6095960#.Ynu6EujMKM8

34. M. G. Flanner, J. B. Arnheim, J. M. Cook, C. Dang, C. He, X. Huang, D. Singh, S. M. Skiles, C. A. Whicker, and C. S. Zender, “SNICAR-ADv3: a community tool for modeling spectral snow albedo,” Geosci. Model Dev. 14, 7673–7704 (2021). [CrossRef]  

40. M. G. Flanner, J. B. Arnheim, J. M. Cook, C. Dang, C. He, X. Huang, D. Singh, S. M. Skiles, C. A. Whicker, and C. S. Zender, “SNICAR-ADv3: Online Snow Albedo Simulator,” (2021) http://snow.engin.umich.edu/.

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Figures (4)

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Equations (15)

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