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Frictional relaxation in avalanches

  • Perry Bartelt (a1) and Othmar Buser (a1)
Abstract

We use velocity profile measurements captured at the Vallée de la Sionne test site, Switzerland, to find experimental evidence for the value of extreme, Voellmy-type runout parameters for snow avalanche flow. We apply a constitutive relation that adjusts the internal shear stress as a function of the kinetic energy associated with random motion of the snow granules, R. We then show how the Voellmy dry-Coulomb and velocity-squared friction parameters change (relax) as a function of an increase in R. Since the avalanche head is characterized by high random energy levels, friction decreases significantly, leading to rapidly moving and far-reaching avalanches. The relaxed friction parameters are near to values recommended by the Swiss avalanche dynamics guidelines. As the random kinetic energy decreases towards the tail, friction increases, causing avalanches to deposit mass and stop even on steep slopes. Our results suggest that the Voellmy friction model can be effectively applied to predict maximum avalanche velocities and maximum runout distances. However, it cannot be applied to model the full range of avalanche behaviour, especially to find the distribution of mass in the runout zone. We answer a series of questions concerning the role of R in avalanche dynamics.

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References
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Annals of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0260-3055
  • EISSN: 1727-5644
  • URL: /core/journals/annals-of-glaciology
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