Two people have died in separate avalanches in northern Italy on the same day, Saturday 9 May 2020. A 23-year-old man was caught by an avalanche on the north side of Mount Tofana di Rozes, to the east of Cortina, and dragged about 200 m by the snow. In a separate incident a man was killed by another avalanche on the Folgaria Plateau, to the south of Trento, while walking his Dog. This weekend has been the first time many Italians have been able to visit the mountains, following a severe lockdown in response to this year's Coronovirus epidemic. However, it has also coincided with a sharp rise in temperatures, leading to a rapid thawing which has raised the avalanche risk considerably.
The approximate location of Mount Tofana di Rozes, where a 23-year-old man was killed by an avalanche while skiing on 9 May 2020. Google Maps.
Avalanches are caused by the mechanical failure of snowpacks; essentially when the weight of the snow above a certain point exceeds the carrying capacity of the snow at that point to support its weight. This can happen for two reasons, because more snow falls upslope, causing the weight to rise, or because snow begins to melt downslope, causing the carrying capacity to fall. Avalanches may also be triggered by other events, such as Earthquakes or rockfalls. Contrary to what is often seen in films and on television, avalanches are not usually triggered by loud noises. Because snow forms layers, with each layer typically occurring due to a different snowfall, and having different physical properties, multiple avalanches can occur at the same spot, with the failure of a weaker layer losing to the loss of the snow above it, but other layers below left in place - to potentially fail later.
Diagrammatic representation of an avalanche, showing how layering of snow contributes to these events. Expedition Earth.
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