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Configurational energy and the formation of mixed flowing/powder snow and ice avalanches

  • Perry Bartelt (a1), Othmar Buser (a1), Cesar Vera Valero (a1) and Yves Bühler (a1)
Abstract.

A long-standing problem in avalanche dynamics is to model the flow of a mixed flowing/powder avalanche. Here we use the thermodynamic concept of configurational energy to describe the blow-out of air from the avalanche core. Configurational energy is the mean potential energy associated with the location of snow and ice particles in the avalanche core. As such, configurational energy determines the avalanche flow density. Expansion of the particle ensemble reduces the flow density and leads to the intake of air. Compression of the particle ensemble causes the blow-out of the intaken air, now laden with ice dust. Once formed, the cloud moves independently of the flowing avalanche with the initial momentum acquired in the core. Configurational energy changes in the avalanche core are therefore intimately related to the formation of the powder suspension cloud. In this paper we use the concept of configurational energy to predict the mass of air taken into and blown out of the core. This requires calculating the dispersive pressure arising from random particle movements and configuration changes related to the expansion and collapse of the flowing particle ensemble. The ice avalanche that struck the Everest base camp on 25 April 2015 is simulated using the proposed concept.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence: Perry Bartelt <bartelt@slf.ch>
References
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Annals of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0260-3055
  • EISSN: 1727-5644
  • URL: /core/journals/annals-of-glaciology
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