Rapid heat-flowing surveying of geothermal areas, utilizing individual snowfalls as calorimeters

Journal of Geophysical Research



Local differences in rate of heat transfer in vapor and by conduction through the ground in hot spring areas are difficult and time-consuming to measure quantitatively. Individual heavy snowfalls provide a rapid low-cost means of measuring total heat flow from such ground. After a favorable snowfall (heavy, brief duration, little wind, air temperature near 0°C), contacts between snow-covered and snow-free ground are mapped on a suitable base. Each mapped contact, as time elapses after a specific snowfall, is a heat-flow contour representing a decreasing rate of flow. Calibration of each mapped contact or snow line is made possible by the fact that snow remains on insulated surfaces (such as the boardwalks of Yellowstone's thermal areas) long after it has melted on adjacent warm ground. Heat-flow contours mapped to date range from 450 to 5500 μcal/cm2 sec, or 300 to 3700 times the world average of conductive heat flow. The very high rates of heat flow (2000 to > 10,000 μcal/cm2 sec) are probably too high, and the lower heat flows determinable by the method (<500 μcal/cm2 sec) may be too low. Values indicated by the method are, however, probably within a factor of 2 of the total conductive and convective heat flow. Thermal anomalies from infrared imagery are similar in shape to heat-flow contours of a test area near Old Faithful geyser. Snowfall calorimetry provides a rapid means for evaluating the imagery and computer-derived products of the infrared data in terms of heat flow.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Rapid heat-flowing surveying of geothermal areas, utilizing individual snowfalls as calorimeters
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research
DOI 10.1029/JB074i022p05191
Volume 74
Issue 22
Year Published 1969
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Publisher location Richmond, VA
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description 11 p.
First page 5191
Last page 5201
Country United States
Other Geospatial Yellowstone National Park
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