AVALANCHE RESEARCH

Cracking the code underlying snowslides

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Science  17 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6326, pp. 707
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6326.707-a

Snow avalanches are caused by a complex interplay between different layers of the snow slab.

PHOTO: STOCKSHOT/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Dangerous snow avalanches require failure of a weak layer buried beneath an overlying cohesive slab of snow. Although this process is mostly understood for some avalanche scenarios, observations of low-angle triggered avalanches challenge the traditional models. Gaume et al. devised a model that better accounts for failure by including the complex interplay between the weak layer and the overlying snow slab. The model agrees well with field data and has the potential to substantially improve life-saving avalanche forecasting.

Cryosphere 10.5194/tc-11-217-2017 (2017).

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