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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-86
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-86
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 09 May 2019

Research article | 09 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Modeling snow slab avalanches caused by weak layer failure – Part I: Slabs on compliant and collapsible weak layers

Philipp L. Rosendahl1,2 and Philipp Weißgraeber1,3,4 Philipp L. Rosendahl and Philipp Weißgraeber
  • 12φ GbR, www.2phi.de, Tübingen, Germany
  • 2Technische Universität Darmstadt, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Germany
  • 3Robert Bosch GmbH, Corporate Research and Advance Engineering, Renningen, Germany
  • 4ARENA2036 research campus, Universität Stuttgart, Germany

Abstract. Dry-snow slab avalanche release is preceded by a fracture process within the snowpack. Recognizing weak layer collapse as an integral part of the fracture process is crucial and explains phenomena such as whumpf sounds and remote triggering of avalanches from low-angle terrain. In this two-part work we propose a novel closed-form analytical model for a snowpack under skier loading and a mixed-mode failure criterion for nucleation of weak layer failure.

In the first part of this two-part series we introduce a closed-form analytical model of a snowpack accounting for the deformable layer. Despite the importance of persistent weak layers for slab avalanche release, no simple analytical model accounting for weak layer deformations is available. The proposed model provides deformations of the snow slab, weak layer stresses and energy release rates of cracks within the weak layer. It generally applies to skier-loaded slopes as well as stability tests such as the propagation saw test. A validation with a numerical reference model shows very good agreement of the stress and energy release rates results in several parametric studies including analyses of the bridging effect and slope angle dependence. The proposed model is used to analyze 93 propagation saw tests. Computed weak layer fracture toughness values are physically meaningful and in excellent agreement with finite element analyses.

In the second part of the series we make use of the present mechanical model to establish a novel failure criterion crack nucleation in weak layers. The code used for the analyses in both parts is publicly available.

Philipp L. Rosendahl and Philipp Weißgraeber
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Philipp L. Rosendahl and Philipp Weißgraeber
Philipp L. Rosendahl and Philipp Weißgraeber
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Short summary
Dry-snow slab avalanche release is preceded by a fracture process within the snowpack. Recognizing weak layer collapse as an integral part of the fracture process is crucial and explains phenomena such as whumpf sounds and remote triggering of avalanches from low-angle terrain. In this two-part work we propose a novel closed-form analytical model for a snowpack under skier loading and a mixed-mode failure criterion for nucleation of weak layer failure.
Dry-snow slab avalanche release is preceded by a fracture process within the snowpack....
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