Snow surface roughness is an important variable in the study of surface–atmosphere exchanges, including the investigation of snow melt at several scales, meltwater production and meltwater flux, wind transport and erosion in winter. In this paper the morphogenesis of the snow surface in winter and in summer is investigated both phenomenologically and quantitatively. For the first time, snow surface roughness and microtopography is measured spatially, using the Glacier Roughness Sensor (GRS), an instrument developed especially for this purpose. Data are analysed by application of geostatistical characterization and classification methods. Parameters that are useful as snow surface descriptors are defined and extracted from vario functions of first and second order, which are calculated for snow-surface-roughness data.
As a result of the geostatistical analysis, characteristics of morphogenetic processes of the winter and summer snow surface are derived. Characteristic parameters are given for suncups (summer) and sastrugi (winter) and their development stages, as well as quantitative discriminators between these forms, which may facilitate automation of snow surface classification. As an application, the interaction of environmentally induced processes and self-organizational processes is analysed. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.