Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2024-34
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2024-34
06 Mar 2024
 | 06 Mar 2024
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Glide-snow avalanches: A mechanical, threshold-based release area model

Amelie Fees, Alec van Herwijnen, Michael Lombardo, Jürg Schweizer, and Peter Lehmann

Abstract. Glide-snow avalanches release at the ground-snow interface due to a loss in basal friction. They pose a threat to infrastructure because of the combination of unreliable mitigation measures, limited forecasting capabilities, and a lack of understanding of the release process. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of spatial variability in basal friction and snowpack properties on the avalanche release area distribution and the release location. We developed a pseudo-3D, mechanical, threshold-based model that consists of many interacting snow columns on a uniform slope. Parameterizations in the model are based on our current understanding of glide-snow avalanche release. The model can reproduce the power law glide-snow avalanche release area distribution as observed on Dorfberg (Davos, Switzerland). A sensitivity analysis of the input parameters showed that the avalanche release area distribution was mostly influenced by the homogeneity (correlation length and variance) of the basal friction and whether the basal friction was reduced suddenly or in small increments. Larger release areas were modeled for a sudden decrease and a more homogeneous basal friction. The spatial variability of the snowpack parameters had little influence on the release area distribution. Extending the model to a real-world slope showed that the modeled location of avalanche releases qualitatively matched the observed locations. The model can help narrow down the length- and time-scales for field investigations. Simultaneously, it can grow in complexity with our increasing knowledge on glide-snow avalanche release processes. Input parameters such as the basal friction or snowpack parameters could potentially all be connected to the liquid water content. This would allow for the use of meteorological measurements to drive the model. The model has the potential to help identify potentially dangerous conditions for large or numerous avalanches which would help improve glide-snow avalanche forecasting.

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Amelie Fees, Alec van Herwijnen, Michael Lombardo, Jürg Schweizer, and Peter Lehmann

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on nhess-2024-34', Jerome Faillettaz, 08 Apr 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on nhess-2024-34', Christoph Mitterer, 05 Jun 2024
Amelie Fees, Alec van Herwijnen, Michael Lombardo, Jürg Schweizer, and Peter Lehmann
Amelie Fees, Alec van Herwijnen, Michael Lombardo, Jürg Schweizer, and Peter Lehmann

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Short summary
Glide-snow avalanches release at the ground-snow interface and their release process is poorly understood. To investigate the influence of spatial variability (snowpack and basal friction) on avalanche release, we developed a 3D, mechanical, threshold-based model that reproduces an observed release area distribution. A sensitivity analysis showed that the distribution was mostly influenced by the basal friction homogeneity while the variations in snowpack properties had little influence.
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