Infoscience

Review

Are there "dragon-kings" events (i.e. genuine outliers) among extreme avalanches?

Predicting the occurrence and spatial extent of extreme avalanches is a longstanding issue. Using field data pooled from various sites within the same mountain range, authors showed that the avalanche size distribution can be described using either an extreme value distribution or a thick-tailed distribution, which implies that although they are much larger than common avalanches, extreme avalanches belong to the same population of events as "small" avalanches. Yet, when looking at historical records of catastrophic avalanches, archives reveal that a few avalanches had features that made them "extra-ordinary." Applying avalanche-dynamics or statistical models to simulate these past events runs into considerable difficulty since the model parameters or the statical properties are very different from the values usually set to model extreme avalanches. Were these events genuine outliers (also called "dragon-kings")? What were their distinctive features? This paper reviews some of the concepts in use to model extreme events, gives examples of processes that were at play in extreme avalanches, and shows that the concept of dragon-king avalanches is of particular relevance to describing some extreme avalanches.

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