CESTiCC: Numerical Simulation of Snow Deposition around Living Snow Fences

AIDC project number: 1626


John Petrie



  • Start Date: Sep 1, 2016
  • End Date: Jul 30, 2018

Project Documents

Project Final Report

Project Summary

Maintaining safe highway conditions at a reasonable cost in cold regions during winter remains a challenge to state and federal agencies. Snow drifts covering the road and blowing snow above the road create unsafe driving conditions that can result in loss of life as well as economic consequences due to increased travel times and damage to pavement. When properly designed, snow fences are an effective and economic solution to the problem of snow drift. By disrupting wind and the associated transport of snow, these fences lead to snow deposition in the vicinity of the fence. The collection of snow around fences results in ice binding of the snow—a process making the snow particles more resistant to entrainment by wind. Snow fences also have a positive environmental impact by reducing the amount of salt applied to roadways.

While traditional snow fences are manufactured using wood, plastic, or metal, interest has increased in the use of living snow fences. These fences—formed by trees, shrubs, and grasses—provide many of the advantages of traditional fences with additional benefits such as control of soil erosion and flood reduction. Living fences also blend into the landscape and are considered aesthetically preferable to manufactured snow fences. To implement effective living snow fences, design guidelines are required. While many design parameters are similar to those of manufactured fences, additional considerations are needed for living fences. These considerations include selecting the appropriate species and planting density to achieve the desired storage capacity, porosity, and strength. Determining the optimal placement for a snow fence requires knowledge of the interaction between the wind direction and speed, snow available for transport, terrain, and the fence. Due to the complexity of wind dynamics and three dimensional terrains, determining fence placement remains a challenge. This study will develop numerical tools to investigate the interactions of wind, snow transport, terrain, and living fences. The proposed work directly relates to the research thrusts of advancing sustainable materials and design and reducing environmental impacts during operation.