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A Reconstruction of Snow-Avalanche Characteristics in Montana, U.S.A., Using Vegetative Indicators

  • David R. Butler (a1) and George P. Malanson (a1)

Abstract

Widespread wet-snow avalanches were observed on the southern boundary of Glacier National Park, Montana, in February 1979. Severe tilting, scarring, and breakage of trees were observed along a transverse trim-line of one path, 70 m from a wet-snow deposit. Tree-ring data were used to establish the date of occurrence, and the nature of damage was used to characterize the avalanche event. The event probably included a previously unrecognized dry-snow avalanche and associated wind blast. Such events present different problems for natural-hazard planning. The nature of vegetative damage along the margins of avalanche paths is shown to be a useful indicator of the characteristics of past unobserved avalanche events.

Résumé

Un grand nombre d’avalanches de neige mouillées ont été observées à la limite Sud du Glacier National Park, dans le Montana en février 1979. On a constaté que des arbres avaient été fortement couchés, blessés, rompus le long d’un transversal à l’un des couloirs, à 70 m du culot de neige mouillée. On a utilisé les cernes annuels des arbres pour établir la date d’occurence et la native des dommages pour caractériser l’avalanche. L’événement a probablement comporté une avalanche de neige poudreuse jusqu’ici inconnue et associée à un souffle important. De tels phénomènes posent divers problèmes pour le zonage des risques d’avalanche. On montre que la nature des dommages aux végétaux sur les bords des couloirs d’avalanches est un utile indice des caractéristiques d’avalanches anciennes non observées.

Zusammenfassung

Im Februar 1979 wurde eine umfangreiche Schneelawinentätigkeit an der südlichen Grenze des Glacier National Park in Montana beobachtet. Starke Verkippungen, Beschädigungen und Brüche von Bäumen waren längs einer Trimmlinie, die quer zur Bahn einer Lawine verläuft, in 70 m Abstand von einer Nassschneeablagerung festzustellen. Zur Ermittlung des Zeitpunkts dieses Ereignisses wurden Baumringdaten herangezogen; die Art der Schäden liess Rückschlüsse auf den Charakter des Lawinenabganges zu. Der Abgang schloss vermutlich eine vorher nicht erkannte Trockenschneelawine und den mit ihr verbundenen Winddruck ein. Solche Vorgänge werfen verschiedene Probleme beim Schutz gegen Naturkatastrophen auf. Die Art der Vegetationsschäden längs der Ränder von Lawinenbahnen erweist sich als nützlicher Hinweis auf die Charakteristiken von früher nicht beobachteten Lawinenabgängen.

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Copyright

References

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Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
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