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Permanent URL to this publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.5167/uzh-49746

Schneider, D; Kaitna, R; Dietrich, W E; Hsu, L; Huggel, C; McArdell, B (2011). Frictional behavior of granular gravel-ice mixtures in vertically rotating drum experiments and implications for rock-ice avalanches. Cold Regions Science and Technology, 69(1):70-90.

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Rapid mass movements involving large proportions of ice and snow can travel significantly further downslope than pure rock avalanches and may transform into debris-flows as the ice melts and as water from the stream network or water-saturated debris is incorporated. Currently, ice is thought to have three distinctive effects: 1) reduction of the friction within the moving mass itself, 2) increase of pore pressure as the ice melts and consequent reduction of the shear resistance of the flowing material, and 3) reduction of boundary friction where the failing mass travels on a glacier. However, measurement-based evidence to support these hypotheses is largely missing. In this study, laboratory experiments on the first two mechanisms were carried out in two partially-filled large rotating drums, one in Vienna (Austria) and a second in Berkeley (USA). Varying proportions of cold gravel and gravel-sized ice were mixed and added to the rotating drum running at constant rotational velocity until all ice had melted. Flow behavior was recorded with flow depth, normal force, shear force, pore-water pressure, and temperature sensors. The bulk friction coefficient was found to decrease linearly with increasing ice content by ~ 20% in the early phase of the experiments, before significant portions of the ice transformed into water. For ice contents larger than 40% by volume, the transformation from a dry granular flow to debris-flow-like movement or hyperconcentrated flow was observed when pore-water pressures rose and approached the normal forces along the flow profile. Pore-water pressure from melting ice developed within several minutes after the start of the experiments and, as it increased, progressively reduced the friction coefficient. The results emphasize that the presence of ice in granular moving material can significantly reduce the friction coefficient of both dry and partially-saturated debris. Due to size effects and the absence of other factors reducing friction (e.g. surfaces with low friction and rock comminution), the absolute measured friction coefficients from the laboratory experiments were larger than those found from natural events. However, the relative changes in friction coefficients depending on the ice and water content may also be considered in real-scale hazard assessments of rapid mass movements in high mountain environments.


11 citations in Web of Science®
12 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Deposited On:23 Sep 2011 06:33
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:01
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.coldregions.2011.07.001
Official URL:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165232X11001340

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