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Avalanche, Snow Topics of Presentation at UW Research Center Aug. 4

July 28, 2016
man standing next to avalanche warning sign
UW retired Professor Andy Hansen will discuss the science behind avalanches Thursday, Aug. 4, as part of the Harlow Summer Seminars at the University of Wyoming-National Park Service Research Center at the AMK Ranch. (Andy Hansen Photo)

The science behind avalanches is the topic of the seventh program in the weekly Harlow Summer Seminars Thursday, Aug. 4, at the University of Wyoming-National Park Service (UW-NPS) Research Center. The center is located at the AMK Ranch in Grand Teton National Park.

Andy Hansen, retired UW Department of Mechanical Engineering professor, will discuss “Some of the Science behind Avalanche Initiation” at 6:30 p.m. at the AMK Ranch, located north of Leeks Marina. A barbecue, at a cost of $5 per person, will take place at 5:30 p.m. Reservations are not required. For more information, call the UW-NPS Research Center at (307) 543-2463.

Hansen, who recently retired after a 30-year career at UW, will present observations on snow, including topics on avalanche safety; snowpack conditions leading to avalanches; weather factors driving snowpack conditions; microscale versus macroscale heat and mass transfer analyses; modeling of depth hoar formation (large crystals occurring at the base of the snowpack that form when uprising water vapor deposits onto existing snow crystals); and avalanche initiation via explosives.

Hansen’s career has focused on the study of multiphase materials -- from snow mechanics at Montana State University (MSU) to failure analysis of high-performance composite materials at UW.

In 2000, he successfully launched Firehole Composites Inc., a high-tech company named after the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park. Firehole became a global leader in producing innovative software aimed at predicting composite failure in structures exposed to severe loading environments. Some of the applications include wing design on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner as well as Red Bull Formula 1 racing.

Hansen received his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering in 1985 from MSU, where he studied explosive loadings in snow.

For more information, email Hansen at

For more information about the Harlow Summer Seminars, contact Michael Dillon at (307) 543-2463 or

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