Measurements of mass balance in dense snow avalanche events
Abstract:Since 1993 the Avalanche Centre of Arabba has managed a test site to determine avalanche-dynamics parameters (Sommavilla and others, 1997; Sommavilla and Sovilla, 1998). The system is located on an avalanche track which is representative for the Dolomites, northern Italy. It monitors avalanche pressures, speed, flow height and variations of the avalanche shape and extent. In winter 1997/98, together with the standard measurements, a series of new field measurements and observations of the snow cover on the avalanche path were conducted for the first time in order to accurately determine the avalanche mass balance. The information collected is typical for dense flow avalanches which have small dimension and develop mainly along a channelled path. In winter 1997/98, four events were studied. For each event, in several sections from the starting zone to the deposition zone, manual measurements were carried out in order to investigate mass entrainment and deposition processes. The mass evolution of the avalanche has been determined. It is shown that the avalanche mass increases by up to 720% with respect to the initial release mass. This entrainment process is related to the speed reached by the avalanche front. In addition, it has been determined that during the acceleration phase of the avalanche front the underlying snow cover is mostly eroded and there is no deposition of snow. In the deceleration phase, by contrast, erosion decreases progressively, reaching the value zero, while deposition becomes progressively larger. These results underscore the importance of the mass balance as a fundamental component in avalanche-dynamics research.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2001
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