Welcome to SLAB, the EPFL Snow and Avalanche Simulation Laboratory of Prof. Johan Gaume.

Research mission & relevance

SLAB focuses on better understanding and simulating the initiation and propagation of gravitational mass movements, with particular focus on snow and avalanche mechanics. We develop numerical models based on the Material Point Method (MPM) which is an ideal candidate for modelling large deformations, fractures, collisions and coexistence between solid- and fluid behaviors. Our work has the potential to break a critical science barrier in mass wasting science, namely modeling the whole instability process, from microstructural failure to dynamic crack propagation and flow at the slope scale and in a unified manner. Model results are validated by comparison to field and laboratory experiments performed at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos. The outcomes of our research have the potential to lead to an unparalleled insight into the mechanics of alpine mass movements and ultimately improve risk assessment and management.

Dyatlov group preparing the tent for their last night alive. © Courtesy of the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation

Using science to explore a 60-year-old Russian mystery

— Researchers from EPFL and ETH Zurich have conducted an original scientific study that puts forth a plausible explanation for the mysterious 1959 death of nine hikers in the Ural Mountains in the former Soviet Union. The tragic Dyatlov Pass Incident, as it came to be called, has spawned a number of theories, from murderous Yeti to secret military experiments. 

© Johan Gaume / EPFL 2020

Modeling gravitational mass movements in the Swiss Alps

— Johan Gaume, the director of EPFL’s Snow and Avalanche Simulation Laboratory (SLAB), has been awarded a Swiss National Science Foundation grant to model gravitational mass movements in the Alps – a potentially devastating phenomenon that will grow in frequency as climate change takes hold.

Les Diablerets, in Vaud Canton. © iStock

Modeling avalanche protection in forests

— Two EPFL students have compared the ability of a forest in Vaud Canton to protect against avalanches before and after it was ravaged by fire in 2018. Their method could be applied to other forested slopes, helping to enhance local reforestation strategies.

© 2019 EPFL

Cohesion-induced enhancement of aeolian saltation

— Cohesion-induced enhancement of saltation fluxes and the occurrence of hysteresis may have implications for dust emission from soils with cohesive crusts, blowing-snow sublimation over snow surfaces, and aeolian transport on Titan, where tholin grains formed of solid methane are thought to be very cohesive

EPFL researchers have developed a new model that will improve the prediction of plaque avalanche risk. © 2017 EPFL

Towards better forecasts of slab avalanches

— A team of researchers from EPFL and the SLF has developed a new model that describes how slab avalanches release. In the long run, it will allow improving avalanche forecasting.

© 2018 EPFL

The subtle mechanics of an avalanche – as seen in 3D

— Drawing on the fact that the snow in an avalanche can behave like both a solid and a fluid, a young researcher at EPFL and WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF has managed to simulate a snow slab avalanche with unrivaled precision.

Maartje Bastings,Romain Fleury,Johan Gaume,Pavan Ramdya. Christian Theiler.  ©A.Herzog/A.Kakulya

EPFL Professors win four SNSF Eccellenza Grants and one Fellowship

— Five EPFL Professors have been awarded four Eccellenza Grants and one Eccellenza Professorial Fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation. At ENAC, Johan Gaume, from Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, won a Eccellenza Professorial Fellowship.

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