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Dissipated work, stability and the internal flow structure of granular snow avalanches

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We derive work dissipation functionals for granular snow avalanches flowing in simple shear. Our intent is to apply constructive theorems of non-equilibrium thermodynamics to the snow avalanche problem. Snow chute experiments show that a bi-layer system consisting of a non-yielded flow plug overriding a sheared fluidized layer can be used to model avalanche flow. We show that for this type of constitutive behaviour the dissipation functionals are minimum at steady state with respect to variations in internal velocity; however, the functionals must be constrained by subsidiary mass-continuity integrals before the equivalence of momentum balance and minimal work dissipation can be established. Constitutive models that do not satisfy this equivalence are henceforth excluded from our consideration. Fluctuations in plug and slip velocity depend on the roughness of the flow surface and viscosity of the granular system. We speculate that this property explains the transition from flowing avalanches to powder avalanches. Because the temperature can safely be assumed constant, we demonstrate within the context of non-equilibrium thermodynamics that granular snow avalanches are irreversible, dissipative systems, minimizing – in space – entropy production. Furthermore, entropy production is linear both near and far from steady-state non-equilibrium because of the mass-continuity constraint. Finally, we derive thermodynamic forces and conjugate fluxes as well as expressing the corresponding phenomenological Onsager coefficients in terms of the constitutive parameters.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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