Weak layer fracture: facets and depth hoar
Understanding failure initiation within weak snow layers is essential for modeling and predicting dry-snow slab avalanches. We therefore performed laboratory experiments with snow samples containing a weak layer consisting of either faceted crystals or depth hoar. During these experiments the samples were loaded with different loading rates and at various tilt angles until fracture. The strength of the samples decreased with increasing loading rate and increasing tilt angle. Additionally, we took pictures of the side of four samples with a high-speed video camera and calculated the displacement using a particle image velocimetry (PIV) algorithm. The fracture process within the weak layer could thus be observed in detail. Catastrophic failure started due to a shear fracture just above the interface between the depth hoar layer and the underlying crust.