Understanding Deadly Ice Avalanches

An ice skating phenomenon might explain the snowball effect behind icy avalanches.


Scientists hope to apply their better understanding of avalanche physics toward risk-reduction efforts. Hazard maps of high-mountain environments, for instance, could be improved with a better understanding of how avalanches evolve. But ice avalanches remain stubbornly unpredictable.

"Such large and long reaching avalanches are low-frequency, high-impact events which are difficult to handle in terms of risk, similar to nuclear plants," said Schneider.

Nonetheless, Schneider believes that these most recent results represent an important step toward understanding avalanches: "All in all, it's a great basis for future work."