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Scientist Simulates an Avalanche's Dangerous Mechanics in 3D

An avalanche is an extremely complex event, with multiple parameters and variables coming into play from the time the avalanche is triggered until it ends. Drawing on the fact that the snow in an avalanche can behave like both a solid and a fluid, EPFL researcher Johan Gaume has created a highly accurate digital simulation of an avalanche. His work, which offers unprecedented insight into how avalanches work, could be used to improve risk management in the mountains. Gaume worked with 3D modeling experts at the University of California Los Angeles. The Swiss and US researchers created the first realistic and scientifically rigorous simulation of a snow slab avalanche – a type of avalanche that occurs when a very clear linear crack appears at the top of the snowpack. Snow slab avalanches are hard to predict and often triggered by skiers or walkers, making them the most dangerous type of avalanche.