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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Chaotic pattern dynamics on sun-melted snow Mitchell, Kevin A.


This thesis describes the comparison of time-lapse field observations of suncups on alpine snow with numerical simulations. The simulations consist of solutions to a nonlinear partial differential equation which exhibits spontaneous pattern formation from a low amplitude, random initial surface. Both the field observations and the numerical solutions are found to saturate at a characteristic height and fluctuate chaotically with time. The timescale of these fluctuations is found to be instrumental in determining the full set of parameters for the numerical model such that it mimics the nonlinear dynamics of suncups. These parameters in turn are related to the change in albedo of the snow surface caused by the presence of suncups. This suggests the more general importance of dynamical behaviour in gaining an understanding of pattern formation phenomena.

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