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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Frequency and terrain factors for high-frequency snow avalanche paths Smith, Michael Johnson


The expected frequency of avalanche events is an essential component of risk in land-use planning and design of avalanche defences in the runout zone. In the past, detailed field studies have been undertaken to determine the frequency of avalanches on individual paths, but there have been few studies to determine the frequency analytically from terrain variables or to determine a probability distribution from which formal risk calculations can be made. In this thesis, I present an analysis based on extensive field measurements for high-frequency avalanche paths (return period less than 30 years). My study focuses on two important aspects: (1) calculation of extreme runout on high-frequency avalanche paths using terrain variables. (2) determination of the probability-density or probability-mass function for high-frequency avalanche paths as an input to risk assessment. By virtue of the extensive database, the work in this thesis represents the most comprehensive study of high-frequency avalanche paths now in existence. The results will find application in land-use planning studies, risk mapping calculations and design of avalanche defences.

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