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Coupled snow cover and avalanche dynamics simulations to evaluate wet snow avalanche activity


Wever, Nander; Vera Valero, César; Techel, Frank (2018). Coupled snow cover and avalanche dynamics simulations to evaluate wet snow avalanche activity. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123(8):1772-1796.

Abstract

We present physics‐based snowpack simulations for four snow seasons with detailed wet snow avalanche activity records. The distributed, spatially explicit simulations using the Alpine3D and SNOWPACK model show that the simulated snowpack in the release areas of documented wet snow avalanches often exhibits its first wetting of the season on the release day. This first wetting is accompanied in the simulations by liquid water accumulating on capillary barriers, often formed by depth hoar layers. The strongest water accumulations and largest increases in percolation depth are found on the day of avalanche release. For individual avalanche paths, however, this only holds in 25‐30% of the cases. Assuming that the depth of the strongest water accumulation corresponds to the avalanche fracture depth, the avalanche dynamics model RAMMS‐Extended was run using simulated snowpack properties as initial conditions in the release area and boundary conditions along the avalanche path. On average, the simulated affected area by the avalanche and runout distance for the release day are statistically significant in closer agreement with the observations than two days before the release. This does not hold for the simulations of one day before and one and two days after the release. This suggests that fracture depths and the temporal evolution of percolation depths are adequately simulated within a ±1 day period. The results show a large potential for distributed snow cover and avalanche dynamics simulations to assess wet snow avalanche hazards, although predictions for individual avalanche paths remain challenging.

Abstract

We present physics‐based snowpack simulations for four snow seasons with detailed wet snow avalanche activity records. The distributed, spatially explicit simulations using the Alpine3D and SNOWPACK model show that the simulated snowpack in the release areas of documented wet snow avalanches often exhibits its first wetting of the season on the release day. This first wetting is accompanied in the simulations by liquid water accumulating on capillary barriers, often formed by depth hoar layers. The strongest water accumulations and largest increases in percolation depth are found on the day of avalanche release. For individual avalanche paths, however, this only holds in 25‐30% of the cases. Assuming that the depth of the strongest water accumulation corresponds to the avalanche fracture depth, the avalanche dynamics model RAMMS‐Extended was run using simulated snowpack properties as initial conditions in the release area and boundary conditions along the avalanche path. On average, the simulated affected area by the avalanche and runout distance for the release day are statistically significant in closer agreement with the observations than two days before the release. This does not hold for the simulations of one day before and one and two days after the release. This suggests that fracture depths and the temporal evolution of percolation depths are adequately simulated within a ±1 day period. The results show a large potential for distributed snow cover and avalanche dynamics simulations to assess wet snow avalanche hazards, although predictions for individual avalanche paths remain challenging.

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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
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Geophysics
Life Sciences > Forestry
Physical Sciences > Oceanography
Life Sciences > Aquatic Science
Physical Sciences > Ecology
Physical Sciences > Water Science and Technology
Life Sciences > Soil Science
Physical Sciences > Geochemistry and Petrology
Physical Sciences > Earth-Surface Processes
Physical Sciences > Atmospheric Science
Physical Sciences > Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
Physical Sciences > Space and Planetary Science
Physical Sciences > Paleontology
Language:English
Date:1 August 2018
Deposited On:11 Jul 2018 13:23
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 07:23
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:2169-9003
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1029/2017JF004515

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