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How is the snow in the “Snow Capital of China”? A concern to researchers besides skiers

Shiliuyun-Xinjiang Daily (Reporter Ren Jiang, Correspondent Dong Shiju) news: Researchers dug out a knee-deep “snow pit”. The profile of the pit was neatly cut, and instruments such as rulers and density boxes were placed next to it. It is a snow observation base located more than ten kilometers from downtown Altay City, northwest China’s Xinjiang, and also an extraordinary place for snow research in China.

Profile of snowpack. (Photo by Shiliuyun - Xinjiang Daily/ Ren Jiang)

Deng Jie and her colleague are discussing the recorded data. (Photo by Dong Shiju)

“303 grams, the snow density observation is over today, but we still need to measure the snow moisture content,” said Deng Jie, a postdoctoral researcher of the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIEER, CAS). She is working on a scientific research project of “Snow melting monitoring in the Northern Hemisphere based on passive microwave remote sensing”, which seems to be a little tricky for the general public to pronounce. An important research approach to the project is to observe and study the snowpack in Altay to obtain accurate and first-hand data on the snowpack in China. These data will be used for climate change, water resources surveys, and snow calamity warning and prevention.

During this period, Deng Jie measures and collects data such as snow density in knee-deep snow every day. “Altay is an extraordinary place for snow research in China. It is very beneficial that Altay has a thick snow depth and a long snow season. We want to take Altay as an experimental site where we can explore the characteristics of snow melt and collect some basic parameters for the inversion of snow depth or snow melt across the region in terms of remote sensing.”

The “Snow Capital of China”, Altay, features heavy snowfall, thick snow depth and long snow time in winter. In 2015, the CAS and Xinjiang Meteorological Service established the Altay Snow Observation Base of the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAREERI, CAS), i.e. the Snow and Ice Observation Base of the Remote Sensing Center of Xinjiang Meteorological Service at the observation base of Altay Meteorological Service in Altay City. Researchers use a variety of observation means to conduct integrated multi-perspective studies of snow accumulation, snowfall and snow melt, providing ground-based validation for a wide range of means of snow satellite remote sensing, including visible, infrared and microwave radiation. Today, this base attracts an increasing number of researchers.

According to Wang Lifu, the director of the Meteorological Service of Altay City, on that very day, another team from the CAS was also researching at the snow observation base, while a scientific research team from the CAREERI, CAS had just finished its observations and left Altay City. From the completion of the snow observation base to the present, more than ten research teams have been here to carry out snow and ice related scientific research.

Deng Jie conducts snow density measurements. (Photo by Dong Shiju)

“The environment for snow research in Altay is unique, and it is a ceiling-level natural testing ground for researchers,” said Wang Lifu, “the snow and ice research is of fundamental importance in promoting the development of the snow and ice industry in Altay Prefecture and across Xinjiang. The creation of the ‘Snow Capital of China’ climate brand is closely linked to these fundamental studies.”

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