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Winter 1999: a valuable test of the avalanche-hazard mapping procedure in Switzerland

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In Switzerland three large snowfall periods led to numerous large avalanche events, causing the deaths of 17 people, damage to about 1000 buildings and blockage of many important traffic systems. This situation was a valuable test of the avalanche-hazard mapping procedure developed in Switzerland since the last extreme avalanche winter in 1951. In most cases, the avalanches stopped within the avalanche-hazard zones. However, approximately 40 of about 1200 large avalanche events passed the limits of the existing hazard zones. The primary deficiency was underestimation of the hazard of powder-snow avalanches. The other reason the hazard-zone boundaries were passed was multiple avalanche events in a single track within a short time period. In addition, some fracture depths were larger than those used in avalanche-dynamics calculations. Therefore, the guideline assumptions for defining the fracture depths are questioned. Winter 1999 impressively underlined the danger of avalanches in mountainous regions. It emphasized the importance of avalanche-hazard mapping, showed the existing deficiencies and provided a large amount of field data that will help to improve our knowledge of avalanche dynamics.

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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