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Avalanche

Jennifer

Reading — Advanced Level
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An avalanche (also called a snowslide) is an event that occurs when a cohesive slab of snow lying upon a weaker layer of snow fractures and slides down a steep slope. Avalanches are typically triggered in a starting zone from a mechanical failure in the snowpack (slab avalanche) when the forces of the snow exceed its strength but sometimes only with gradual widening (loose snow avalanche). After initiation, avalanches usually accelerate rapidly and grow in mass and volume as they entrain more snow. If the avalanche moves fast enough, some of the snow may mix with the air forming a powder snow avalanche, which is a type of gravity current.

The load on the snowpack may be only due to gravity, in which case failure may result either from weakening in the snowpack or increased load due to precipitation. Avalanches initiated by this process are known as spontaneous avalanches. Avalanches can also be triggered by other loading conditions such as human or biologically related activities. Seismic activity may also trigger the failure in the snowpack and avalanches.

Although primarily composed of flowing snow and air, large avalanches have the capability to entrain ice, rocks, trees, and other surficial material. However, they are distinct from slushflows which have higher water content and more laminar flow, mudslides which have greater fluidity, rock slides which are often ice free, and serac collapses during an icefall.

Avalanches are not rare or random events and are endemic to any mountain range that accumulates a standing snowpack. They are most common during winter or spring but glacier movements may cause ice and snow avalanches at any time of year. In mountainous terrain, avalanches are among the most serious objective natural hazards to life and property, with their destructive capability resulting from their potential to carry enormous masses of snow at high speeds.

There is no universally accepted classification system for different forms of avalanches. Avalanches can be described by their size, their destructive potential, their initiation mechanism, their composition and their dynamics.
Source: Wikipedia
  1. When does an avalanche occur?

  2. What are spontaneous avalanches?

  3. What can trigger avalanches?

  4. What can trigger avalanches?

  5. Can avalanches be described by their destructive potential?

Discussion

Practice your writing skills by discussing the questions below


  1. Based on what you've read, what are the different kinds of avalanches?

  2. Do you live in a snowy region? Mountainous area ?

  3. What are the dangers posed by living in mountainous area and/ or with slopes or snow?

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