Possible erosion mechanisms in snow avalanches
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- NGI articles 
Snow erosion and entrainment processes in avalanches are classified according to their mechanisms, the flow regimes in which they occur, and their spatial position within the avalanche. Simple, but process-specific, models are proposed for erosion by impacts, abrasion, plowing and blasting. On the basis of order-of-magnitude estimates, the first three mechanisms are clearly expected to be important. The fourth mechanism stipulates that the compaction of the snow cover ahead of the avalanche leads to the flow of escaping air just in front of the avalanche that may disrupt the snow cover and support formation of a saltation layer. The effects of this hypothetical mechanism resemble those of the plowing mechanism. All mechanisms depend strongly on the snow properties, but, with plausible parameter values, erosion rates at or above the experimentally found rates are obtained. The entrainment rate of an avalanche is most often limited by the shear stress needed to accelerate the eroded snow to avalanche speed.