New simulations can improve avalanche forecasting

Computer simulations of snow cover can accurately forecast avalanche hazard, according to a new international study involving researchers from Simon Fraser University.

With climate change, avalanches are migrating upslope

We now know that the effects of climate change are particularly strong in mountain areas. The substantial impacts on the cryosphere (snow, ice and permafrost) have been well described where changes in glaciers and snow cover ...

Counting single photons at unprecedented rates

In high-end 21st century communications, information travels in the form of a stream of light pulses typically traveling through fiber optic cables. Each pulse can be as faint as a single photon, the smallest possible unit ...

Study reveals new clues about Mt. Everest's deadliest avalanche

On the afternoon of April 15, 2015, an earthquake rocked the Himalayas, causing widespread death and damage across Nepal, India and Tibet. The magnitude 7.8 quake—the strongest ever recorded in the region—rattled glaciers ...

Modeling avalanche protection in forests

Two EPFL students have compared the ability of a forest in Vaud Canton to protect against avalanches before and after it was ravaged by fire in 2018. Their method could be applied to other forested slopes, helping to enhance ...

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An avalanche is a sudden rapid flow of snow down a slope, occurring when either natural triggers or human activity causes a critical escalating transition from the slow equilibrium evolution of the snow pack. Typically occurring in mountainous terrain, an avalanche can mix air and water with the descending snow. Powerful avalanches have the capability to entrain ice, rocks, trees, and other material on the slope. Avalanches are primarily composed of flowing snow, and are distinct from mudslides, rock slides, and serac collapses on an icefall. In contrast to other natural events which can cause disasters, avalanches are not rare or random events and are endemic to any mountain range that accumulates a standing snow pack. In mountainous terrain avalanches are among the most serious objective hazards to life and property, with their destructive capability resulting from their potential to carry an enormous mass of snow rapidly over large distances.

Avalanches are classified by their morphological characteristics and are rated by either their destructive potential, or the mass of the downward flowing snow. Some of the morphological characteristics used to classify avalanches include the type of snow involved, the nature of the failure, the sliding surface, the propagation mechanism of the failure, the trigger of the avalanche, the slope angle, direction and elevation. The size of an avalanche, its mass and its destructive potential are rated on a logarithmic scale, typically of 5 categories, with the precise definition of the categories depending on the observation system or forecast region.

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