Acta Mechanica

, Volume 86, Issue 1–4, pp 201–223

The dynamics of avalanches of granular materials from initiation to runout. Part I: Analysis

  • S. B. Savage
  • K. Hutter
Contributed Papers


This paper describes a model to predict the flow of an initially stationary mass of cohesion-less granular material down rough curved beds. This work is of interest in connection with the motion of rock and ice avalanches and dense flow snow avalanches. The constitutive behaviour of the material making up the pile is assumed to be described by a Mohr-Coulomb criterion while the bed boundary condition is treated by a similar Coulomb-type basal friction law assumption. By depth averaging the incompressible conservation of mass and linear momentum equations that are written in terms of a curvilinear coordinate system aligned with the curved bed, we obtain evolution equations for the depthh and the depth averaged velocityū. Three characteristic length scales are defined for use in the non-dimensionalization and scaling of the governing equations. These are a characteristic avalanche lengthL, a characteristic heightH, and a characteristic bed radius of curvatureR. Three independent parameters emerge in the non-dimensionalized equations of motion. One, which is the aspect ratio ε-H/L, is taken to be small. By choosing different orderings for the other two, the tangent of the bed friction angle δ and the characteristic non-dimensional curvature λ=L/R, we can obtain different sets of equations of motion which appropriately display the desired importance of bed friction and bed curvature effects. The equations, correct to order ε for moderate curvature, are discretized in the form of a Lagrangian-type finite difference representation which proved to be successful in the earlier studies of Savage and Hutter [24] for granular flow down rough plane surfaces. Laboratory experiments were performed with plastic particles flowing down a chute having a bed made up of a straight, inclined portion, a curved part and a horizontal portion. Numerical solutions are presented for conditions corresponding to the laboratory experiments. It is found that the predicted temporal-evolutions of the rear and front of the pile of granular material as well as the shape of the pile agree quite well with the laboratory experiments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. B. Savage
    • 1
  • K. Hutter
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and GlaciologyFederal Institute of TechnologyZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Civil Engineering and Applied MechanicsMcGill University MontrealCanada
  3. 3.Department of MechanicsTechnological InstituteDarmstadtFederal Republic of Germany

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