Meteorological variables associated with deep slab avalanches on persistent weak layers

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Abstract

Deep slab avalanches are a particularly challenging avalanche forecasting problem. These avalanches are typically difficult to trigger, yet when they are triggered they tend to propagate far and result in large and destructive avalanches. For this work we define deep slab avalanches as those that fail on persistent weak layers deeper than 0.9m (3 feet), and that occur after February 1st. We utilized a 44-year record of avalanche control and meteorological data from Bridger Bowl Ski Area to test the usefulness of meteorological variables for predicting deep slab avalanches. As in previous studies, we used data from the days preceding deep slab cycles, but we also considered meteorological metrics over the early months of the season. We utilized classification trees for our analyses. Our results showed warmer temperatures in the prior twenty-four hours and more loading over the seven days before days with deep slab avalanches on persistent weak layers. In line with previous research, extended periods of above freezing temperatures led to days with deep wet slab avalanches on persistent weak layers. Seasons with either dry or wet avalanches on deep persistent weak layers typically had drier early months, and often had some significant snow depth prior to those dry months. This paper provides insights for ski patrollers, guides, and avalanche forecasters who struggle to forecast deep slab avalanches on persistent weak layers late in the season.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Meteorological variables associated with deep slab avalanches on persistent weak layers
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher ISSW
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 8 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Proceedings, International Snow Science Workshop, Banff, 2014
First page 21
Last page 28