A simple center-of-mass avalanche model that accounts for avalanche flow in forests is presented. The model applies the principle of conservation of energy to calculate the deceleration of avalanches caused by tree fracture, overturning and debris entrainment. The model relates the physical properties of forests (tree spacing, tree age, tree type, soil conditions) to avalanche flow. Modified dry-Coulomb and velocity-dependent friction parameters commonly used in avalanche runout calculations are derived. Example calculations demonstrate how the model can be applied to back-calculate observed avalanche events. The model quantitatively explains why large avalanches can destroy forests without significant deceleration. Furthermore, it shows why tree fracture consume/little of the avalanche’s energy. Finally, the model reveals how protective forests in avalanche tracks can be maintained over time to provide the best protective capacity against snow avalanches.
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