19 interesting facts about avalanches

The snow avalanches coming down from the mountain slopes are a terrible, unstoppable force that can sweep away everything in its path. In some countries they are a real threat to be reckoned with. The problem is compounded by the fact that escaping an avalanche is almost impossible if someone is so unfortunate to be right in its path.

Interesting facts about avalanches

  1. Average speed of an avalanche is about 25 meters per second, give or take. You won’t be able to escape from it.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, avalanches come down not only from very high mountains, but also from quite low ones (interesting facts about mountains).
  3. Since the conditions that lead to an avalanche form very quickly, there is no the technical ability to predict them in advance, or even more so to prevent them.
  4. A loud sound in the silence of the mountains can really cause an avalanche. But most often they occur due to the fact that the lower layer of the snow cover thaws, and a water cushion forms. The snow mass loses its grip on the mountain slope and begins its steady downward movement, gradually accelerating.
  5. Every year, more than 150 people become victims of snow avalanches around the world.
  6. Due to the high speed and huge the inertia of an avalanche, when hitting obstacles like rocks or especially large and strong buildings, can jump over them and continue moving. They also pass over mountain gorges and crevices without falling through them.
  7. In the Himalayas, some mountain slopes popular with climbers are bombarded with special mortars before the start of the season to cause an avalanche to come down prematurely and thereby protect the area (interesting facts about the Himalayas).
  8. In most cases, avalanches descend in winter, but there are and exceptions.
  9. In total, avalanche-prone areas on Earth include about 6% of all land, or more than 9.2 million square kilometers.
  10. The winter of 1950-1951 went down in history as the «Winter of Horror». Then in the Alps during the winter months a record number of avalanches came down, as many as 649. They caused the death of several hundred people. The Swiss city of Andermatt was hit by 6 avalanches in an hour.
  11. The city of Juno, in the USA, Alaska, is considered the most avalanche-prone settlement in the world.
  12. On particularly steep slopes, with an inclination angle of more than 50 degrees, snow avalanches do not occur, since the slope is too large for snow to accumulate. At the same time, cases of avalanches descending from slopes inclined by only 10-15 degrees were recorded.
  13. The minimum snow depth for the occurrence of an avalanche is 15 centimeters.
  14. Most often they occur during thaws, when a particularly warm day or exposure to spring solar radiation causes the bottom layer of the snow cover to melt (interesting facts about radiation).
  15. It is in the Himalayas that the most powerful and destructive snow avalanches in the world occur, but in most cases they descend in uninhabited areas.
  16. An avalanche can consist of both dry snow and wet snow. The former are much more dangerous, as the dry mass of snow picks up especially fast speed.
  17. The average avalanche can consist of 2-3 million cubic meters of snow.
  18. Dogs are really indispensable in finding people buried under avalanche. They save many lives every year.
  19. In the United States alone, more than 100,000 avalanches come down every year, and worldwide the number goes into the millions.
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