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Sikkim Nathu La Avalanche

Context:

Recently, a massive Avalanche hit Sikkim’s Nathu La.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Avalanche?
  2. Causes of Avalanches:
  3. Avalanches vs. Landslides: How They Differ

What is Avalanche?

  • An avalanche refers to a sudden and swift movement of snow, ice, and debris down a mountain or slope.
  • Avalanche can be triggered by various factors like heavy snowfall, rapid temperature changes, or human activity.
  • In avalanche-prone areas, specialized teams use techniques such as explosives, snow barriers, and other safety measures to monitor and control avalanche risks.
  • The three main types of avalanches are rock avalanches (composed of shattered rock), ice avalanches (occurring in the vicinity of a glacier), and debris avalanches (consisting of unconsolidated materials such as loose stones and soil).

Causes of Avalanches:

  • Weather Conditions: Heavy snowfall, rapid temperature changes, strong winds, and rain are some of the factors that can contribute to avalanche conditions.
  • Slope Conditions: The steepness, orientation, and shape of a slope can also increase the likelihood of an avalanche. Steep slopes with a convex shape are particularly prone to avalanches.
  • Snowpack Conditions: The structure and stability of the snowpack play a significant role in avalanche conditions. Weak layers of snow or ice within the snowpack can cause it to collapse and trigger an avalanche.
  • Human Activity: Recreational activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, and other movements on the slope can trigger avalanches.
  • Natural Events: Natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and rockfalls can also trigger avalanches.

Avalanches vs. Landslides: How They Differ

  • Avalanches and landslides are both types of mass movements, but they occur in different environments and involve different materials.
  • An avalanche is a sudden and rapid flow of snow, ice, and debris down a mountain or slope, while a landslide is a movement of rock, earth, or debris down a slope or cliff.
  • Avalanches mainly occur in mountainous areas with heavy snowfall and steep slopes, whereas landslides can happen in a broad range of environments and can be triggered by factors like heavy rainfall, earthquakes, volcanic activity, or human activity.
  • Both avalanches and landslides can be hazardous and potentially fatal, and taking appropriate precautions to avoid them is critical.

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