Meaning of Avalanche

What is Avalanche:

avalanches are natural phenomena that occur when a considerable mass of snow breaks off and slides down the slopes of mountains and steep terrain. The word, as such, comes from the French avalanche.


Avalanches occur as a result of the accumulation of snow in mountainous areas where the slopes of the mountains and the concurrence of a series of physical and meteorological factors give rise to movements of large amounts of snow.

Avalanches can be superficial if only the outermost part of the snow cover is mobilized, or deep, when not only the snow cover is mobilized, but even this, in its movement, erodes the substratum of the slope and it takes with it part of the vegetation cover of the slope.

Avalanches can form for any of the following reasons:

  • Due to lack of homogeneity between the snow layers.
  • Due to excess weight, when the amount of snow is greater than what a surface can support.
  • By rain, when it penetrates a recent layer, and it slides due to the weight of the water.
  • Due to changes in ambient temperature that can affect the cohesion of the snow.
  • Due to soil conditions, especially when they are conducive to material sliding across its surface (clay, smooth, wet or icy soils).

Depending on their magnitude, avalanches can be classified on a scale that goes from weak to very strong, the latter being highly dangerous.

Depending on the victims and damage that an avalanche may cause, it can also be considered a natural disaster.

You may be interested:  Meaning of Molar Mass

Avalanche can also designate, in a general way, any considerable mass of matter that falls off and precipitates from a slope. For example: “The detachment of the tree produced an avalanche of land.”

The word avalanche can also be used figuratively in reference to a large amount of something. For example: avalanche of kisses, avalanche of compliments, avalanche of humanity, etc.

avalanche types

loose snow avalanche

It is the type of avalanche that occurs after heavy snowfall. Fresh snow, accumulating more than 25 cm thick, is conducive to sliding, especially when it falls on a smooth mass of snow. This type of avalanche tends to drag more and more snow along its path.

plaque avalanche

Plate avalanche occurs when a compacted snow surface breaks off and slides downhill. It looks like a block of snow cut out of its surroundings. It is a fairly frequent type of avalanche and carries great risks.

avalanche of wet snow

The avalanche of wet snow is typical of the season when temperatures begin to rise, towards the end of winter and the beginning of spring. They tend to be slower and lower in suspension.