International Journal of Fracture

, Volume 187, Issue 2, pp 277–283 | Cite as

The unacknowledged risk of Himalayan avalanches triggering

  • Nicola M. PugnoEmail author
Original Paper


A “universal” model for avalanche triggering, as well as for collapse of suspended seracs, is presented based on Quantized Fracture Mechanics, considering fracture, friction, adhesion and cohesion. It unifies and extends the classical previous approaches reported in the literature, including the role of the slope curvature. A new size-effect, that on mountain height rather than the classical one on snow slab thickness, is also discussed and demonstrated thanks to glaciers data analysis from the World Glacier Inventory (, 2014). The related most noteworthy result is that snow precipitation needed to trigger avalanches at 8,000 m could be up to 4 times, with a realistic value of 1.7 times, smaller than at 4,000 m. This super-strong size-effect may suggest that the risk of Himalayan avalanches is today still unacknowledged. A discussion on the recent Manaslu tragedy concludes the paper.


Avalanche Triggering Size-effects 



N.M.P. is supported by the European Research Council, Grants Bihsnam, Replica2 and Knotough as well as by the European Union, within the Graphene Flagship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Bio-Inspired and Graphene Nanomechanics, Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly
  2. 2.Center for Materials and MicrosystemsPovo (Trento)Italy
  3. 3.School of Engineering and Materials ScienceQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

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