NWD/Landslides and Mudslides/Interesting facts about avalanches
Landslides and Mudslides Nov.06.2020

Interesting facts about avalanches

avalanche facts

After we have told all about avalanches, it is time to move on to avalanche facts

  • It is very difficult to escape from the impending avalanches, and it is almost impossible to escape from it. Huge masses of snow move at speeds up to 80-90 km/h, or 20-25 meters per second, and avalanches can even “jump” obstacles such as small rivers, hills, fences, and buildings. In this case, they slow down, but not too significantly.
  • Many people live permanently in areas subject to avalanches. For example, in the Alps, where more than 12,000,000 people live, almost all territories are avalanche-prone. On the whole planet, about 6% of the land is avalanche-prone, and the only continent where there is no such threat is Australia.
  • One of the main avalanches facts that make them deadly is that they cannot be predicted. When the temperature rises under the snow that covered the mountain slope, its lower layer melts, and as a result, there is a water cushion on which the avalanche slides. But this process is very rapid, only a few days from its beginning to its end usually, so it is impossible to predict an avalanche. Although statistics show where and at what time avalanches occur most often.
  • Every year, millions of avalanches descend all over the world, claiming the lives of 150-200 people. For example, in the U.S., according to published statistics, more than a hundred thousand are recorded annually. The most avalanche-prone settlement in the world is located in Alaska, in the city of Juneau. Although the sad record belongs to the Alps, where in the winter of 1950-1951, about 650 avalanches descended. In the Austrian city, Andermatt, six avalanches collapsed in just one hour! Winter 1950-1951 in the Alps went down in history as “Winter of horror.
  • Snow avalanches may not occur in all conditions. The thickness of the snow cover should reach at least 15 cm. And the slope must be neither too flat nor too steep – in the first case, the angle of the slope will be insufficient for an avalanche, and in the second case, snow will roll down the slope before its critical mass will accumulate in one place.
  • The fun fact about avalanches that loud sounds can cause an avalanche to descend. In theory, of course, sound vibrations can really do it, but theory often diverges from practice. And there is not a single confirmed case in the whole world that a loud sound can really cause an avalanche.
  • The most powerful and destructive snow avalanches in the world go down in the Himalayas, but fortunately, this happens most often in unpopulated areas. Although the mountain height is not a decisive factor for the formation of conditions favorable for an avalanche – it may as well occur on a low mountain or even just on a fairly high hill.
  • Experienced mountain rescuers know that avalanches can be both wet and dry, depending on the humidity of the snow they consist of. Dry avalanches usually have less mass, but they are more dangerous because they move much faster.
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