Snow crystal imaging using scanning electron microscopy: I. Precipitated snow

TitleSnow crystal imaging using scanning electron microscopy: I. Precipitated snow
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsRango A., Wergin W.P., Erbe E.F.
JournalHydrological Sciences
Start Page219
Date Published04/1996

Low-temperature scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to observe precipitated snow crystals. The newly-fallen snow
crystals were obtained in storms at Beltsville, Maryland, and at Bearden Mountain near Davis, West Virginia, USA. The snow samples were mounted on modified SEM stubs, frozen in liquid nitrogen, sputter coated with platinum, and imaged with an electron beam. Many types of precipitated snow crystals were observed including hexagonal plates, columns, needles, stellar dendrites, bullets, graupel, and rimed crystals. The SEM techniques that were developed can be used for quantitative measurements of size, shape and structure of crystals. SEM of precipitated snow appears to have direct application for the inference of atmospheric and cloud conditions where the snow crystals formed and travelled to the ground and for the development of a relationship between snow crystal type and snowfall intensity and amount. The SEM technique provides a new procedure to record permanently snow crystal conditions during winter storms.