Slush avalanches, primarily known from uninhabited arctic and mountainous regions, every year cause damage to man and property in Norway. Seeking objective criteria to identify their hazard zones, and methods for their prediction and control, the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) has started a research program on these topics.
Thirty-four slush avalanches with known locations of crown surface have been investigated with regard to geomorphic and climatic characteristics. Starting zones, crown surfaces and tracks were classified according to geomorphic conditions important to avalanche release and motion.
Weak cohesionless snowpacks of coarse grains, and hard layers or crusts of ice in snow cover or on the ground, are critical conditions for slush avalanche release. Intense rain, falling on cohesionless new snow on these substrata, is the most striking feature of current weather situations.
The main starting zones were drainage channels, Sloping bogs, depressions and open fields. Channel-like, scar-like or bowl-like features appeared in the snow cover due to avalanche release. Three main types of release were identified: 1) Sudden release from crown surface, 2) drainage of snow-embanked, water-saturated snowfields through narrow outlets and 3) rapid headward growth from first point of release.
Enlargements and confinements along the avalanche tracks were caused by distinctly defined features in the tracks.