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Assessment of Artificial and Natural Transport Mechanisms of Ice Nucleating Particles in an Alpine Ski Resort in Obergurgl, Austria

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Baloh Philipp, Els Nora, David Robert O., Larose Catherine, Whitmore Karin, Sattler Birgit, Grothe Hinrich,
Project Elucidating Ice Nucleation Mechanisms Relevant to the Atmosphere: Is deposition nucleation really immersion freezing in pores?
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Frontiers in Microbiology
Volume (Issue) 10
Page(s) 2278
Title of proceedings Frontiers in Microbiology
DOI 10.3389/fmicb.2019.02278

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Artificial snow production is a crucial part of modern skiing resorts in Austria and globally, and will develop even more so with changing precipitation patterns and a warming climate trend. Producing artificial snow requires major investments in energy, water, infrastructure and manpower for skiing resorts. In addition to appropriate meteorological conditions, the efficiency of artificial snow production depends on heterogeneous ice-nucleation, which can occur at temperatures as high as −2°C when induced by specific bacterial ice nucleating particles (INPs). We aimed to investigate the presence, source and ice nucleating properties of these particles in the water cycle of an alpine ski resort in Obergurgl, Tyrol, Austria. We sampled artificial snow, river water, water pumped from a storage pond and compared it to samples collected from fresh natural snow and aged piste snow from the area. Particles from each sampled system were characterized in order to determine their transport mechanisms at a ski resort. We applied a physical droplet freezing assay [DRoplet Ice Nuclei Counter Zurich (DRINCZ)] to heated and unheated samples to characterize the biological and non-biological component of IN-activity. Bacterial abundance and community structure of the samples was obtained using quantitative PCR and Illumina Mi-Seq Amplicon Sequencing, and their chemical properties were determined by liquid ion-chromatography, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The results show the flow of biological and inorganic material from the river to the slopes, an uptake of new microorganisms through the air and the piping, and possible proliferation or introduction of ice nucleation active biological particles in aged piste snow. Natural snow, as the first stage in this system, had the lowest amount of ice nucleation active particles and the least amount of biological and mineral particles in general, yet shares some microbial characteristics with fresh artificial snow