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NWDLandslides and MudslidesWhat Is an Avalanche?

What Is an Avalanche?

Snow avalanches are masses of snow and/or ice falling off slopes and moving down at high speed. They can slide down the sloping ground surface, ice crust, water layer, or weakened layer over the underlying snow column. They can also fall off the ledges, passing part of their way in a free fall and then moving not only on slopes but also on natural guides – gorges, logs, valleys, etc. Even the same avalanche can change the character of its movement in its process.

Interesting avalanches info! The word “avalanche” is derived from the German word Lawine (“landslide”), which originated from the Late Latin term ‘labina known since the VI century. The latter, in turn, originated from the Latin root ‘lab – “instability, mobility” (remember, for example, the word “lability” known to us from the same root).

Avalanches disasters occur in different volumes – from several cubic meters to tens of thousands and even millions of cubic meters. They often play a significant role in the nutrition of glaciers (up to 10-40 and even up to 100% or more of the amount of precipitation) and actively involved in changing the topography of the mountains, capturing debris and pieces of eroded rocks, ripping off the land cover and postponing it all at the end of his journey.

Avalanche Natural Disaster

why do avalanches happen

Avalanches which are dangerous for people and villages are typical for winter and spring seasons, and for climbing – any other season. They occur in all areas where there are slopes and a steady snow cover. They can descend not only in high mountains but also in low mountains and even in areas that are not considered mountainous – hills, high banks of water bodies, cliffs, sides of ravines. Avalanches dangerous for human life can occur on slopes or on the sides of artificially created relief elements – slag heaps, quarries, deep road hollows, etc. And what should we call a phenomenon if a layer of snow or ice descends from a sloping roof of a building without a protective fence and kills a passerby?

In the process of movement, the volume of an avalanche usually increases significantly due to the capture of new masses of snow, ice, and rock debris below the slope. One cubic meter of dry avalanche can weigh from 20 to 300 kg, wet – from 300 to 800 kg.

How Fast Is an Avalanche?

what does avalanches look like

Avalanches which are dangerous for people and villages are typical for winter and spring seasons, and for climbing – any other season. They occur in all areas where there are slopes and a steady snow cover. They can descend not only in high mountains but also in low mountains and even in areas that are not considered mountainous – hills, high banks of water bodies, cliffs, sides of ravines. Avalanches dangerous for human life can occur on slopes or on the sides of artificially created relief elements – slag heaps, quarries, deep road hollows, etc. And what should we call a phenomenon if a layer of snow or ice descends from a sloping roof of a building without a protective fence and kills a passerby?

The speed of a dry avalanche can reach 20-125 m/s, wet – 10-40 m/s. It is conditionally considered that if the maximum speed of snow movement is less than 1 m/s, it is not an avalanche, but just a snowslide.

The total weight of snow in an avalanche can reach 200-500 thousand tons or even more. The volume of snow deposited after its stop sometimes reaches 2-6 million cubic meters, and its thickness – up to 20-100 meters. However, even very small avalanches can be dangerous for life, for example, with a volume of about 5-10 cubic meters. Almost any snowfall can be considered an avalanche if it’s enough to knock a man down.

Crashing from great heights (sometimes 1-2 km and more), avalanches have huge destructive power. Fortunately, the overwhelming number of avalanches go down in places where no man has set foot. But in populated and tourist mountainous areas, they often lead to death and great material damage by demolishing forests, destroying roads, buildings and structures. Snow avalanches can destroy entire villages on their way. Therefore, for example, in the Alps, they have been called “white death” since ancient times.

Be sure to remember this avalanche information if you are going to go to the mountains with your family. Your preparation can save your life and the lives of your loved ones. Knowledge is the power that can give you the ability to escape unharmed from the anger of the elements.

Avalanches which are dangerous for people and villages are typical for winter and spring seasons, and for climbing – any other season. They occur in all areas where there are slopes and a steady snow cover. They can descend not only in high mountains but also in low mountains and even in areas that are not considered mountainous – hills, high banks of water bodies, cliffs, sides of ravines. Avalanches dangerous for human life can occur on slopes or on the sides of artificially created relief elements – slag heaps, quarries, deep road hollows, etc. And what should we call a phenomenon if a layer of snow or ice descends from a sloping roof of a building without a protective fence and kills a passerby?

In the process of movement, the volume of an avalanche usually increases significantly due to the capture of new masses of snow, ice, and rock debris below the slope. One cubic meter of dry avalanche can weigh from 20 to 300 kg, wet – from 300 to 800 kg.

Rescue teams are created in the mountains during the avalanche-prone period.

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