Glide-snow avalanches - the last frontier in avalanche forecasting
Alec van HerwijnenProject staff
Snow gliding, defined as slow downhill movement of the entire snow cover on the ground, may lead to the formation of folds and cracks within the snowpack. When the glide motion speeds up, a glide-snow avalanche may develop. Compared to other types of avalanches, glide-snow avalanches are considered unpredictable and difficult to mitigate. We know that glide-snow avalanche release is closely connected to the presence of water at the snow-soil interface, which reduces friction. However, it remains unclear how the snow-soil system exactly interacts to wet the lowermost snow layer. We aim to improve our understanding of the physical processes underlying glide-snow avalanche formation by linking the two porous media, snow and soil, and assessing the mass and heat exchange across their interface - with the ultimate goal to advance the predictability of glide-snow avalanches. We combine field measurements, laboratory experiments and numerical modelling employing several novel methods.