Numerical investigation of the mixed-mode failure of snow

The failure of a weak snow layer underlying a cohesive slab is the primary step in the release process of a dry snow slab avalanche. The complex and heterogeneous microstructure of snow limits our understanding of failure initiation inside the weak layer, especially under mixed-mode shear–compression loading. Further complication arises from the dependence of snow strength on the loading rate induced by the balance between bond breaking and bond formation (sintering) during the failure process. Here, we use the discrete element method to investigate the influence of mixed-mode loading and fast sintering on the failure of a weak layer generated using cohesive ballistic deposition. Both fast and slow loading simulations resulted in a mixed-mode failure envelope in good agreement with laboratory experiments. We show that the number of broken bonds at failure and the weak layer strength significantly decreases with increasing loading angle, regardless of the loading rate. While the influence of loading rate appears negligible in shear-dominant loading (for loading angles above 30∘), simulations suggest a significant increase in the weak layer strength at low loading angles and low loading rates, characteristic of natural avalanches, due to the presence of an active sintering mechanism.


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Computational Particle Mechanics
Year:
Jan 24 2019
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 Record created 2019-03-19, last modified 2019-06-19

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