CHARTER welcomes snow observations by everyone!

One aspect of the CHARTER project is to gain a better understanding of snow icing events, such as happens when rain falls on snow. This affects animal movements and behaviours and hinders animals from digging through the snow. Icing also impacts plants, and are very relevant for livelihoods such as reindeer herding.

Snow profile observations (by digging snow pits to analyse the layer structure of the snow cover) are needed for the development of snow monitoring using satellite data, and to evaluate climate and snow models. These models are used for developing future scenarios of snow conditions and impacts. Open data about icing events could also be used by hunters, herders and other users of the environment.

Snow profiles are not routinely observed and open data about icing events is poorly available. Because snow cover properties have large temporal and spatial variability, snow profiles are needed from various locations and different times during the snow season. This has been challenging, as CHARTER fieldwork was generally cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020-2021. For these reasons CHARTER created a “Snow Protocol”, which follows international snow observational standards but is simplified.

“Our collaborators in Yamal peninsula made a significant number of snow pits”, says Leena Leppänen, CHARTER snow researcher responsible for the development of the snow protocols. “We were not able to do as much as wanted during the 2020-2021 winter, but some reindeer herders and colleagues in Northern Finland and Norway made these observations, and we even got some data from Alaska”.

CHARTER is again looking for individuals and groups (schools, clubs etc.) interested in northern environment, climate and snow, with the possibilities and interest in doing simple snow observations. These observations can be done close to home, or in more remote locations. Observations done once during the winter are valuable, but of course observations that are repeated monthly, for example are even more informative. Observations do not require special skills or equipment. 

It would be ideal to get onboard also people regularly spending time in the wilderness, like reindeer herders, border guards and cross-country skiers. But also observations close to your back yard are valuable. And remember, these observations are simple, and in minimum consist of information of the snow depth, and if there are – and where – icy layers in the snow cover.”

CHARTER project leader, professor Bruce Forbes of the University of Lapland, Finland

Sirpa Rasmus, another CHARTER snow researcher is very grateful for the snow pits dug by colleagues and others in spring 2021. “But the experience also showed clearly what sort of development needs there are. The protocol needs to be even simpler, and there needs to be a way to open the data for all potential users. This is not something one research project can achieve alone. Thankfully many research groups and institutes are now interested in collecting local observations, including on snow and ice.”

The long-term goal is to get more data openly available, and collaborate with other networks and research institutes in citizen science and crowdsourcing related to snow. In these collaborations CHARTER researchers are looking at the time after the actual project period. As Rasmus pointed out, “It is not necessary that every project builds their own interfaces and databases; collection and sharing of data could be done together.”

The guidelines with an instructive video (in Finnish), measurement template and online survey to submit the observations are found here in English:

The sub-page has the same information in Finnish, as well as links to snow resources (where to find data about snow in Finland) and links to other citizen science platforms: 

For more information contact:

Sirpa Rasmus srasmus at ulapland.fi

Leena Leppänen leena.leppanen at ulapland.fi

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