Fractures under snow may be underlying cause of deadly avalanches

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Edinburgh, July 11 : Researchers at a Scots university have determined that fractures under the surface of snow may be the underlying cause of the kind of avalanches most commonly triggered by skiers.

According to a report in The Scotsman, it had been previously believed that slab avalanches were created by "shear cracks" in the surface of snow, which allowed large slabs of it to slide down mountainsides.

However, scientists from the University of Edinburgh have now suggested the main reason is fractures under the surface - known as anti-cracks - which make a layer of snow crumble inwardly like a house of cards, causing the upper layers to slide off.

According to Joachim Heierli, of the university's Centre for Materials Science and Engineering, "Our discoveries complete a piece of the puzzle of how avalanches occur. We hope this will help to pinpoint dangerous telltale signs and so avoid unnecessary dangers on mountains."

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