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Thursday August 9, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

A young researcher has created a 3D animation of an avalanche that could help improve mountain safety for skiers and snowboarders.

Johan Gaume spent months working with a team of American 3D modelling experts in California.

Some of whom had helped simulate the snow in the Disney animated film, Frozen.

Together they came up with a digital simulation that will help understanding of the science of avalanches.

It's said to be the first realistic and scientifically accurate recreation of a slab avalanch.

It offers unprecedented insight into the movement of avalanches from the moment they occur to when they stop.

Slab avalanches are often triggered by extra loading on the surface of the snow , for example from a skier or snowboarder.

A clear linear crack occurs, a weak layer in the snowpack collapses causing the dense layer of snow on the surface to break away in a slab.

These type of avalanches can be hard to predict.

The researcher at the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos and the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne says they took account of the fact that snow in a slab avalanche behaves like both a solid and a fluid.

It starts out behaving like a solid and then takes on the characteristics of a fluid.

Avalanche researcher Johan GaumeJohan Gaume














"In addition to deepening our knowledge of how snow behaves, this project could make it possible to assess the potential size of an avalanche, the runout distance and the pressure on any obstacles in the avalanche's path more accurately," Gaume says.

Watch the video animation and Johan Gaume's explanation of it:


Dynamic Anticrack Propagation in Snow by J Gaume, T Gast, J Teran, A van Herwijnen and C Jiang has been published in the science journal, Nature Communications, this month.

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