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Geophysics Research in the Sibley School

Our interest in geophysics focuses on eruption currents, such as powder snow avalanches, aeolian transport and internal processes in sand dunes, and measurements of density and velocity of snow.

For more information, contact Michel Louge at

Eruption currents

Eruption currents are driven by massive frontal entrainment. An example is powder snow avalanches. Although these phenomena resemble gravity currents generated as a heavier fluid is released into a lighter one (for example following dam break), the fluid mechanics of eruption currents is radically different.

Snow measurements

We have developed a quantitative capacitance technique to measure snow density. We have applied it to stratigraphy of snow packs, and measurements of density and velocity in snow avalanches.

Internal processes in sand dunes

Inspired by our stratigraphy of snow packs, we have developed a unique capacitance technique that can record extremely low levels of moisture in the dry layer beneath the surface of sand dunes. We conducted measurements in the Mauritanian Sahara and in Qatar.


Michel Louge measures the density of sand at the surface of a barchan sand dune near Akjoujt in Mauritania.