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The influence of tree and branch fracture, overturning and debris entrainment on snow avalanche flow

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A simple center-of-mass avalanche model that accounts for avalanche flow in forests is presented. The model applies the principle of conservation of energy to calculate the deceleration of avalanches caused by tree fracture, overturning and debris entrainment. The model relates the physical properties of forests (tree spacing, tree age, tree type, soil conditions) to avalanche flow. Modified dry-Coulomb and velocity-dependent friction parameters commonly used in avalanche runout calculations are derived. Example calculations demonstrate how the model can be applied to back-calculate observed avalanche events. The model quantitatively explains why large avalanches can destroy forests without significant deceleration. Furthermore, it shows why tree fracture consumes little of the avalanche's energy. Finally, the model reveals how protective forests in avalanche tracks can be maintained over time to provide the best protective capacity against snow avalanches.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

More about this publication?
  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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