The load, travel distance, and work index needed to break surface elements on 21 natural snow surfaces were measured with a motor-driven, spherical probe. The strongest and least brittle surfaces were fresh deposits of wind transported snow. The weakest surface was a new surface formed during snowfall with no sun and no wind. The most brittle surfaces were two cases of sun-softened snow that had refrozen before measurement. In new snow that had aged 6-7 1 2 h with no sun and no wind, strength increased by a factor of 2-3, work index increased 10 times, and brittleness decreased by 4-9 times. On surfaces with both erosional and depositional features, the latter were stronger, less brittle, and had work indexes 10-100 times greater than the erosional features. The strength of snow surface elements as measured with the current hardness gage corresponded closely to the forces generated by saltating snow particles. © 1985.
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