Modeling the influence of snow cover temperature and water content on wet-snow avalanche runout
Abstract. Snow avalanche motion is strongly dependent on the temperature and water content of the snow cover. In this paper we use a snow cover model, driven by measured meteorological data, to set the initial and boundary conditions for wet-snow avalanche calculations. The snow cover model provides estimates of snow height, density, temperature and liquid water content. This information is used to prescribe fracture heights and erosion heights for an avalanche dynamics model. We compare simulated runout distances with observed avalanche deposition fields using a contingency table analysis. Our analysis of the simulations reveals a large variability in predicted runout for tracks with flat terraces and gradual slope transitions to the runout zone. Reliable estimates of avalanche mass (height and density) in the release and erosion zones are identified to be more important than an exact specification of temperature and water content. For wet-snow avalanches, this implies that the layers where meltwater accumulates in the release zone must be identified accurately as this defines the height of the fracture slab and therefore the release mass. Advanced thermomechanical models appear to be better suited to simulate wet-snow avalanche inundation areas than existing guideline procedures if and only if accurate snow cover information is available.