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Climate Change and Avalanches

© 2015 EPFL

© 2015 EPFL

Climate change affects snow and avalanches

Warmer grounds and higher temperatures increase the gliding rate of snowpacks and are conducive to wet snow avalanches that involve the snow cover across its full depth. If displacement rates are low (from a few cm/day for snow covers to a few m/s for gliding avalanches), these phenomena have a significant destruction potential. In recent years, an increasing number of damage has been reportes, especially chairlift masts in ski resorts.

The LHE has just published a review paper entitled "Dynamics of glide avalanches and snow gliding" in Reviews of Geophysics. This paper has been highlighted in the Science and American Geophysical Union blogs. Engineering methods make it possible to give the correct estimate of the forces exerted by gliding snow. Yet the ability to accurately explain the interaction between gliding snow and an obstacle still remains some way off. Lubrication by a water film between the snowpack sole and ground is one plausible process for gliding