An avalanche is a rapid flow of snow down a hill or mountainside. In mountainous areas, avalanches are among the most serious natural hazards with severe threats to life and property, with destructive capability resulting from their potential to carry enormous masses of snow at high speeds.
After a seven-year study, a group of scientists from the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography (XIEG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently identified the characteristics of triggering factors for of the avalanche activity in the western Tianshan Mountains.
Several factors may affect the likelihood of avalanche release may affect the likelihood , including weather conditions, slope steepness and orientation, terrain, vegetation, general snowpack conditions, and so on.
Based on observation of avalanche activity along the national road G218 in the western Tianshan Mountains, scientists analyzed data on the avalanche activity related to meteorological, snowpack and earthquake data.
Results showed that snowfall is the largely contributory factor that trigger natural avalanches. “There is high probability of avalanche release with snowfall exceeding 20.4 mm during a snowfall period,” said LI Lanhai, the research team leader.
Consecutive rise in temperature within three days with a daily mean temperature reaching 0.5°C in the following day may also imply a high probability of avalanche release, according to LI.
Earthquakes are also among key triggering factors of avalanches in the western Tianshan Mountains, usually causing large-scale avalanches.
Large scale avalanches occur every year and affect road safety in the western Tianshan Mountains.
Results of this study were published on the latest issue of the Journal of Mountain Science, entitled “Avalanche activity and characteristics of its triggering factors in the western Tianshan Mountains, China”.