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Snowpack estimations in the starting zone of large-scale snow avalanches in the Makunosawa valley, Myoko, Japan

  • Yukari Takeuchi (a1) and Hiroyuki Hirashima (a2)

Abstract

The Makunosawa valley, Myoko, Japan, experiences frequent avalanches and is therefore ideally suited to study how meteorological elements influence avalanche activity. Since 2000, five large-scale snow avalanches with running distances >2000 m have been observed and some characteristics of these avalanches have been obtained. However, the characteristics of the snowpack in the starting zones could not be observed because they are too difficult to approach and no snow-pit observations have been carried out. We simulated the variations in the snowpack in the starting zone using the numerical snowpack model SNOWPACK with local meteorological data. The results indicate a layer of faceted crystals with low shear strength followed by rapid loading from snowfall was the cause of three avalanches in February. Conversely, no layer of faceted crystals was shown by the model before a January avalanche and we assume the sliding surface of the avalanche to be precipitation particles. The only wet-snow avalanche is attributed to a decrease in shear strength due to infiltration of meltwater and an increase in liquid water content in the boundary of two layers of different grain sizes.

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References

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