Triggering Avalanches

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Humans often trigger avalanches purposefully before natural ones can occur. Either way, avalanches begin when external stresses on the snow pack exceed the strength within the snow pack or at the contact between the snow and the ground. Acceleration of the snow is gravity-driven. If the snow mixes with air, powder clouds can form that carry snow even further than the main slab. Although the snow itself is not a fluid, once an avalanche gets moving, its behavior can be better modeled as a fluid than as a solid.

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