Research findings could make it easier to forecast avalanches

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A local researcher has found a connection between snow slides and La Niña winters that could make forecasting avalanches easier.

Bret Shandro, a researcher with the SFU Avalanche Research Program, has found avalanche conditions are a little different during La Niña winters. Using avalanche hazard assessments from Avalanche Canada and Parks Canada from the 2009/10 to 2016/17 winter seasons, he examined the nature and variability of avalanche hazard and the relationship to large-scale climate patterns.

His research identified typical avalanche hazard situations and calculated their seasonal prevalence to develop a quantitative measure of the nature of local avalanche hazard conditions.

He then examined the relationship between climate oscillations and avalanche hazard. The study suggests a relationship between the climate patterns and avalanche hazard situations.

“The El Niño or La Niña, you get those predictions for months in advance. So now we can pair that with what we found here and get an idea of what the avalanche hazard for the season could be,” he says.

“My research is kind of showing that we’ll see more deep persistent slide problems.”

Shandro says organizations like Avalanche Canada can use his research to build models that can be used for better forecast.

“When you have a weakness in the snowpack lower down and quite a sizable slab of snow on top, it’s like a classic low probability of an avalanche but if there is an avalanche they can be quite destructive.”

“We’re seeing more deep persistent slab problems in some of the Interior regions.”


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