Meet the teams: Avalanche

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ESA / Education / Spin Your Thesis!

The Avalanche team is composed of three master students from the University of Amsterdam. The aim of the experiment is to derive a relationship between avalanche patterns in terms of latitudinal and longitudinal properties and kinetic sieving of granular material flows, and increased levels of gravity.

 The influence of gravity on the sorting and runout of granular avalanches: a three dimensional analysis of morphological flow properties

University University of Amsterdam
Endorsing professor Erik Cammeraat
 University of Amsterdam, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics 
Team Carlijn Snoek, Fleur van Langen, Mabel Gray
Team Avalanche
Team Avalanche

Granular avalanches are abundant in the natural environment on a wide range of spatial scales and can consist of material varying from dust to large rocks. In the geophysical context, granular avalanches can occur in a wide variety of geomorphological processes and are expressed in e.g. rockfall, debris avalanches and landslides. Not only on Earth but even on celestial bodies such as Mars and the Moon, avalanches are abundant and are one of the most important processes that shape the landscape,especially in environments where other forming processes such as weathering and erosion are not common. Importantly, gravity is one of the main drivers in granular avalanches and their behaviour, and is a key factor in the establishment of the avalanche architecture. It effects factors such as flow speed, morphology, kinetic sieving, interparticle forces and particle weight. Therefore, understanding the flow of materials under varying gravity conditions is important in getting a better understanding of the physics of these kind of processes, both on Earth and other planetary bodies.

Multiple studies have examined the influence of gravity on granular avalanches, but seem to have found contradictory conclusions. Because it is stated that gravity is a determinant factor in most geomorphic processes, there is a strong possibility that the influence of gravity on avalanches is clearly visible in their three-dimensional profile. The aim of this experiment is to study this effect of gravity on the lateral and longitudinal properties of avalanches. In order to assess the effect of gravity, the objective will be to document avalanches in hypergravity in 3D using photogrammetry.

Conducting research into the field of gravity and the effects of its changing values will contribute to increasing insights and understanding of these process dynamics in a growing research field.

Additionally, the results of the experiment could be extrapolated to other planetary bodies with variant gravities.