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Study of a large-scale dry slab avalanche and the extent of damage to a cedar forest in the Makunosawa valley, Myoko, Japan

  • Yukari Takeuchi (a1), Hiroyuki Torita (a2), Koichi Nishimura (a3) and Hiroyuki Hirashima (a4)
Abstarct

Accurate measurements of snow avalanche flows in forests are rare. To understand how forests can stop avalanches, we study a mixed flowing avalanche that stopped in a cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) forest in Japan. The large-scale dry slab avalanche occurred in the Makunosawa valley in Myoko on 17 February 2008 and damaged many trees. The site contains a geophone and other devices to detect avalanche activity. A nearby meteorological station provides weather information. Post-event observations were made of the scale of the avalanche and tree damage. These showed that the avalanche released from the east-southeast-facing slope at 1700 ma.s.l. Snow debris reached ~770ma.s.l; the horizontal runout distance was ~3000 m. The area of the runout zone was ~10 ha, and the snow water equivalent of debris was 400–1500 mm. The mass of the avalanche was roughly estimated at 5–10×107 kg (1–2×105m3). We used snowpack simulation models to estimate the height of the fracture zone. The simulations revealed that a faceted snow layer formed at 2 m and the stability index was 0.5 (poor) at the time of the avalanche release, due to heavy snowfall. We estimated the avalanche velocity from the bending stress of the broken cedar trees, in order to verify the effect of forests in reducing avalanche velocity. The avalanche was estimated to flow into the forest at a velocity of >26–31ms–1, with a 17 m high powder snow layer and a dense-flow layer <2m in height. It appears to have slowed down and stopped at ~130m after penetrating the upper edge of the forest.

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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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