slow, deformation and densification of snow under the influence
of gravity. Not to be confused with collasping
Settlement and Sintering:
A newborn, snowflake that falls out of the sky doesn't stay
that way for long. As soon as it lands on the snow surface it
begins a rapid process of change. Just like people, as a snowflake
ages, its beautiful, angular shape becomes progressively more
rounded through time and it forms bonds with its neighbors.
In people, it's called growing up; in the snowpack it's called
"sintering"--forming bonds with neighboring crystals
to create the fabric of the snowpack.
As sintering progresses, the snow becomes denser and stronger,
which we call "settlement." Sometimes you will hear
people incorrectly use the term settlement to describe the catastrophic
collapse of a snowpack that often makes a giant "whoomph"
sound, as in, "Hey, did you hear that settlement? Maybe
we should get out of here." Instead, we call these collapses
or "whoomphing", which, believe it or not, is actually
the technical term for a collapsing snowpack. It sounds funny
but it's a great description. Settlement is the SLOW deformation
of the snow as it densifies and sags under the influence of
New, fluffy snow settles relatively quickly, within minutes
to hours and it settles much more quickly at warm temperatures
than in cold temperatures. We often think of settlement within
the new snow as a sign of stability (at least within the new
snow) because it means that the new snow is rapidly becoming
stronger. When new snow settles, it forms "settlement cones"
around trees and bushes where the snow bonds to the bush which
props up the snow, like a circus tent.