Journal article

Thermal energy in dry snow avalanches

Avalanches can exhibit many different flow regimes from powder clouds to slush flows. Flow regimes are largely controlled by the properties of the snow released and entrained along the path. Recent investigations showed the temperature of the moving snow to be one of the most important factors controlling the mobility of the flow. The temperature of an avalanche is determined by the temperature of the released and entrained snow but also increases by frictional processes with time. For three artificially released avalanches, we conducted snow profiles along the avalanche track and in the deposition area, which allowed quantifying the temperature of the eroded snow layers. This data set allowed to calculate the thermal balance, from release to deposition, and to discuss the magnitudes of different sources of thermal energy of the avalanches. For the investigated dry avalanches, the thermal energy increase due to friction was mainly depending on the effective elevation drop of the mass of the avalanche with a warming of approximately 0.3 degrees C per 100 vertical metres. Contrarily, the temperature change due to entrainment varied for the individual avalanches, from -0.08 to 0.3 degrees C, and depended on the temperature of the snow along the path and the erosion depth. Infrared radiation thermography (IRT) was used to assess the surface temperature before, during and just after the avalanche with high spatial resolution. This data set allowed to identify the warmest temperatures to be located in the deposits of the dense core. Future research directions, especially for the application of IRT, in the field of thermal investigations in avalanche dynamics are discussed.


Related material