EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

From Dense Flows to Powder Cloud Simulations: The OpenFOAM Avalanche Module

Matthias Rauter1, Julia Kowalski2, and Wolfgang Fellin1
Matthias Rauter et al.
  • 1Universität Innsbruck, Unit of Geotechnical Engineering, Innsbruck, Austria (
  • 2RWTH Aachen University, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering

OpenFOAM [1] is a well-known and widely used framework for physical simulations. Its Finite Area Framework allows the depth-integrated simulation of flows on nearly arbitrary surfaces. It was shown that this framework can be applied to snow avalanche simulations in natural terrain [2].

We will present the latest updates to the framework and the implementation of the avalanche module. The module provides not only a model for dense flow avalanches [2], but was lately extended to simulate powder snow avalanches and mixed snow avalanches. Various well-known friction and snow entrainment models are available for use, as well as unique models for deposition and coupling of dense flow and powder cloud layer in mixed snow avalanches. For practical applications, the module provides interfaces and methods for the integration of geographic information systems (GIS) and is fully capable of using raster and shape files for in- and output.

The avalanche module is built to integrate well in the OpenFOAM structure and follows the common user concepts of OpenFOAM. Therefore, users familiar with OpenFOAM should be able to accommodate quickly to the module and to run simulations after a short time. The module is provided as open source and its structure enables and encourages the implementation and experimenting with new ideas. One mayor goal of the module is to reduce the time from model development to model evaluation and application.

The module is hosted and developed collaboratively on We will provide an introduction into the framework and development process and provide interested people pointers on how to get started with the module and how to implement their own ideas.

[1] Weller, H. G., Tabor, G., Jasak, H., & Fureby, C. (1998). A tensorial approach to computational continuum mechanics using object-oriented techniques. Computers in physics, 12(6), 620-631.

[2] Rauter, M., Kofler, A., Huber, A., & Fellin, W. (2018). faSavageHutterFOAM 1.0: depth-integrated simulation of dense snow avalanches on natural terrain with OpenFOAM. Geoscientific Model Development, 11(7), 2923-2939.

How to cite: Rauter, M., Kowalski, J., and Fellin, W.: From Dense Flows to Powder Cloud Simulations: The OpenFOAM Avalanche Module, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-4428,, 2023.