Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Radar system could give avalanche protection

Heavy uk snow

A radar-based imaging system with an ability to penetrate snow-powder clouds could lead to greater avalanche protection for infrastructure.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and tested in the Swiss Alps last winter, the Advanced MIMO Radar Development for Geophysical Imaging Applications system produces 3D images that reveal how snow flows inside avalanches.

The new data will strengthen computer models used to understand avalanche behaviours and pinpoint better defences against them. It is hoped the system could lead to more cost-effective protection – defending 1ha currently costs around £750,000.

“It’s not possible to predict precisely when avalanches will happen, but our radar imaging system aids understanding of how they behave when they do occur,” said project leader Paul Brennan.

“By penetrating the powder cloud, it can observe the nature and direction of the flow of the 90% of snow that would otherwise remain invisible.”

Using the “echo sounder” principle, the system’s antenna transmits radio waves and has a 1.95m receiver array to capture them as they reflect back from the snow.

The power and wavelength of the radio waves means the system offers greater sensitivity and higher resolution images than other similar systems.

It was developed by a team from University College London, Durham University and Sheffield University, working in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.

Avalanches kill more than 150 people worldwide each year, and cause significant disruption and damage to infrastructure. Current avalanche protection methods include snow fences, dams and reinforcing buildings.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.