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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-2019-87
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-87
© 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 II: Coupled mixed-mode criterion for skier-triggered anticracks

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. Using the analytical model presented in part I of this two-part paper, a new conceptual understanding of anticrack nucleation in weak layers is proposed. To obtain a sufficient condition for onset of failure two necessary conditions must be satisfied simultaneously: i) The weak layer must be overloaded in terms of stress and ii) the initiating crack must release enough energy for the formation of new surfaces. This so-called coupled criterion was proposed by Leguillon (2002) [Eur J Mech-A Solid, 21(1), 61–72, 2002]. No assumptions on initial defects within the weak layer are needed. Instead, the failure criterion provides both critical loading and the size of initiating cracks. It only requires the fundamental material properties strength and fracture toughness as inputs. Crack initiation and subsequent propagation are covered by a single criterion containing both a strength-of-materials and a fracture mechanics condition.

Analyses of skier-loaded snowpacks show the impact of slab thickness and slope angle on critical loading and crack initiation length. In the limit cases of very thick slabs and and very steep slopes we obtain natural avalanche release. A discussion of different mixed-mode stress and energy criteria reveals that a wrong choice of mixed-mode hypotheses can yield unphysical results. The effect of material parameters such as density and compliance on weak layer collapse is illustrated.

The framework presented in this two-part series harnesses the efficiency of closed-form solutions to provide fast and physically sound predictions of critical snowpack loads using a new conceptual understanding of mixed-mode weak layer failure. It emphasized the importance of both stress and energy in avalanche release.

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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