Skip to main content Accessibility help

Size of snow particles in a powder-snow avalanche

  • Marie Rastello (a1) (a2), Fabrice Rastello (a3), Hervé Bellot (a2), Frédéric Ousset (a2), François Dufour (a4) and Lorenz Meier (a4)...


Little quantitative information is available concerning the size of ice particles in the turbulent clouds of powder-snow avalanches. To quantify particle size distributions, we have developed an experimental device that collects particles in real-scale powder avalanches. The device was placed on the concrete bunker of the Swiss Vallée de la Sionne avalanche dynamics test site. On 31 January 2003, a large powder-snow avalanche struck the bunker and we were able to collect particle samples. The collected particles have been photographed and the pictures digitized. An image analysis tool allows us to determine an equivalent particle radius. The captured particles have a geometric mean of 0.16 mm; the largest particles were 0.8 mm in size and the smallest particles 0.03 mm.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Size of snow particles in a powder-snow avalanche
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Size of snow particles in a powder-snow avalanche
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Size of snow particles in a powder-snow avalanche
      Available formats



Hide All
Ancey, C. 2004. Powder snow avalanches: approximation as non-Boussinesq clouds with a Richardson number-dependent entrainment function. J. Geophys. Res., 109(F1), F01005. (10.1029/2003JF000052.)
Bartelt, P. and McArdell, B.W.. 2009. Granulometric investigations of snow avalanches. J. Glaciol., 55(193), 829833.
Beghin, P., Hopfinger, E.J. and Britter, R.E.. 1981. Gravitational convection from instantaneous sources on inclined boundaries. J. Fluid Mech., 107, 407422.
Biescas, G.B. 2003. Aplicación de la sismología al estudio y detección de aludes de nieve. (PhD thesis, Universitat de Barcelona.)
Brun, E. and Pahaut, E.. 1991. An efficient method for a delayed and accurate characterization of snow grains from natural snowpacks. J. Glaciol., 37(127), 420422.
Cheng, Z. and Redner, S.. 1988. Scaling theory of fragmentation. Phys. Rev. Lett., 60(24), 24502453.
Christen, M., Kowalski, J. and Bartelt, P.. 2010. RAMMS: numerical simulation of dense snow avalanches in three-dimensional terrain. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 63(1–2), 114.
Clément-Rastello, M. 2001. A study on the size of snow particles in powder-snow avalanches. Ann. Glaciol., 32, 259262.
Clift, R., Grace, J.R. and Weber, M.E.. 1978. Bubbles, drops and particles. London, Academic Press.
Clifton, A., Rüedi, J.D. and Lehning, M.. 2006. Snow saltation threshold measurements in a drifting-snow wind tunnel. J. Glaciol., 52(179), 585596.
Colbeck, S.C. 1986. Statistics of coarsening in water-saturated snow. Acta Metall., 34(3), 347352.
Colbeck, S.C. 1987. A review of the metamorphism and classification of seasonal snow cover crystals. IAHS Publ.162 (Symposium at Davos 1986 – Avalanche Formation, Movement and Effects), 334.
Colbeck, S.C. and 7 others. 1990. The international classification for seasonal snow on the ground. Wallingford, Oxon, International Association of Scientific Hydrology.
Dozier, J. and Painter, T.H.. 2004. Multispectral and hyperspectral remote sensing of alpine snow properties. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 32, 465494.
Dufour, F., Gruber, U. and Ammann, W.. 2001. Avalanches: études effectuées dans la Vallée de la Sionne en 1999. Les Alpes, 2, 915.
Espin, D. 2003. Experimental and computational investigation of snow melting on a hydronically heated concrete slab. (MS thesis, University of Oklahoma.)
Étienne, J., Rastello, M. and Hopfinger, E.J.. 2006. Modelling and simulation of powder-snow avalanches. C. R. Mécanique, 334(8–9), 545554.
Feingold, G. and Levin, Z.. 1986. The lognormal fit to raindrop spectra from frontal convective clouds in Israel. J. Climate Appl. Meteorol., 25(10), 13461363.
Gay, M., Fily, M., Genthon, C., Frezzotti, M., Oerter, H. and Winther, J.G.. 2002. Snow grain-size measurements in Antarctica. J. Glaciol., 48(163), 527535.
Gonzalez, R.C. and Woods, R.E.. 1992. Digital image processing. London, Addison-Wesley.
Hutter, K. 1996. Avalanche dynamics. In Singh, V.P., ed. Hydrology of disasters. Dordrecht, etc., Kluwer Academic Publishers, 317394.
Mellor, M. 1964. Properties of snow. CRREL Monogr. III-A1. Naaim, M. 1995. Modélisation numérique des avalanches aérosols. Houille Blanche, 50(5–6), 5662.
Nolin, A.W., Shi, J. and Dozier, J.. 1992. Characterization of snow grain size in the near-infrared and microwave wavelengths. In Proceedings of IEEE Topical Symposium on Combined Optical, Microwave, Earth and Atmosphere Sensing, 22–25 March, 1993, Albuquerque, NM, USA. Piscataway, NJ, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 5154.
Rastello, M.C. and Hopfinger, E.J.. 2004. Sediment-entraining suspension clouds: a model of powder-snow avalanches. J. Fluid Mech., 509, 181206.
Rastello, M., Ancey, C., Ousset, F., Magnard, R. and Hopfinger, E.J.. 2002. An experimental study of particle-driven gravity currents on steep slopes with entrainment of particles. Natur. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. (NHESS), 2(3–4), 181185.
Sampl, P. and Zwinger, T.. 2004. Avalanche simulation with SAMOS. Ann. Glaciol., 38,393398.
Shi, J. and Dozier, J.. 2000. Estimation of snow water equivalence using SIR-C/X. Part I: inferring snow density and subsurface properties. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 38(6), 24652474.
Shinnar, R. 1961. On the behaviour of liquid dispersions in mixing vessels. J. Fluid Mech., 10(2), 259275.
Simpson, J.E. 1997. Gravity currents in the environment and in the laboratory. Second edition. Cambridge, etc., Cambridge University Press.
Sovilla, B., Burlando, P. and Bartelt, P.. 2006. Field experiments and numerical modelling of mass entrainment in snow avalanches. J. Geophys. Res., 111(F3), F03007. (10.1029/2005JF000391.)
Stacey, M. and Bowen, A.. 1988. The vertical structure of turbidity currents and a necessary condition for self-maintenance. J. Geophys. Res., 93(C4), 35433553.
Teague, M.R. 1980. Image analysis via the general theory of moments. J. Opt. Soc. Am., 70(8), 920930.
Turnbull, B. and McElwaine, J.N.. 2007. A comparison of powder-snow avalanches at Vallée de la Sionne, Switzerland, with plume theories. J. Glaciol., 53(180), 3040.
Turnbull, B., McElwaine, J.N. and Ancey, C.. 2007. The Kulikovskiy– Sveshnikova–Beghin model of powder snow avalanches: development and application. J. Geophys. Res., 112(F1), F01004. (10.1029/2006JF000489.)
Vallet, J., Turnbull, B., Joly, S. and Dufour, F.. 2004. Observations on powder snow avalanches using videogrammetry. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 39(2–3), 153159.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed