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Measured shear rates in large dry and wet snow avalanches

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We present estimates of internal shear rates of real-scale avalanches that are based on velocity measurements. Optical velocity sensors installed on the instrument pylon at the Swiss Vallée de la Sionne test site are used to measure flow velocities at different flow heights of three large dry and wet snow avalanches. Possible sources of error in the correlation analysis of the time-lagged reflectivity signals measured by optical sensors are identified for real-size avalanches. These include spurious velocities due to noise and elongated peaks. An appropriate choice of the correlation length is essential for obtaining good velocity estimates. Placing restrictions on the maximum possible accelerations in the flow improves the analysis of the measured data. Coherent signals are found only in the dense flowing cores. We observe the evolution of shear rates at different depths between the front and tail of the flowing avalanche. At the front, large shear rates are found throughout the depth; at the tail, plug flows overriding highly sheared layers near the bottom of the flow are observed. The measured velocities change strongly with height above the ground and fluctuations around the measured mean velocity can be identified. We find that the dense flows are laminar, undergoing a transition from supercritical to subcritical flow behaviour from the head to the tail. Furthermore, we provide real-scale experimental evidence that the mean shear rate and the magnitude of velocity fluctuations increase with the mean discharge.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • 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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