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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 11 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 14, 2921-2931, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 07 Nov 2014

Research article | 07 Nov 2014

Quantification of basal friction for technical and silvicultural glide-snow avalanche mitigation measures

T. Feistl1,2, P. Bebi1, L. Dreier1, M. Hanewinkel3, and P. Bartelt1 T. Feistl et al.
  • 1WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Flüelastrasse 11, 7260 Davos Dorf, Switzerland
  • 2Technical University Munich (TUM), Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, Arcisstrasse 21, 80333 Munich, Germany
  • 3University of Freiburg, Forestry Economics and Planning, Tennenbacherstrasse 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany

Abstract. A long-standing problem in avalanche engineering is to design defense structures and manage forest stands such that they can withstand the forces of the natural snow cover. In this way, glide-snow avalanches can be prevented. Ground friction plays a crucial role in this process. To verify existing guidelines, we collected data on the vegetation cover and terrain characteristics of 101 glide-snow release areas in Davos, Switzerland. We quantified the Coulomb friction parameter μm by applying a physical model that accounts for the dynamic forces of the moving snow in the stauch zone. We investigated the role of glide length, slope steepness and friction in avalanche release. Our calculations revealed that the slope angle and slab length for smooth slopes correspond to the technical guidelines for defense structure distances in Switzerland. Artificial defense structures, built in accordance with guidelines, prevent glide-snow avalanche releases, even when the terrain is smooth. Slopes over 40 m in length and 45° in steepness require a ground friction of μm = 0.7 corresponding to stumps or tree regeneration to ensure protection. Forest management guidelines that define maximum forest gap sizes to prevent glide-snow avalanche release neglect the role of surface roughness and therefore underestimate the danger on smooth slopes.

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