Item: Preparedness of the icelandic meteorological office in response to potential avalanche danger
Title: Preparedness of the icelandic meteorological office in response to potential avalanche danger
Proceedings: Proceedings of the 1996 International Snow Science Workshop, Banff, Canada
Authors: Magnus Mar Magnusson, Icelandic Meteorological Office, Bustadarvegi 9, IS -150 Reykjavik
Abstract: In the wake of avalanche disasters in the last year that left 36 people dead, the law in Iceland concerning avalanche safety was changed. In addition to monitoring potential avalanche situations, the responsibility of defining evacuation areas and ordering evacuations was given to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO). In order to prepare for this, the IMO set up an internal avalanche situation watch. Reports were written describing potentially dangerous situations in terms of weather conditions and snow accumulation. In addition, maps were compiled showing distinct evacuation zones. Three stages where defined, depending on the severity of the situation and potential runout distances of avalanches. An increase in the staff of the avalanche section at the IMO has taken place with additional resources given to the section. The mandate of the IMO has been set to prevent further disasters like the ones that occurred in 1995. The system of local snow observers was strengthened both in terms of manpower and equipment. A system of senior observer and assistants has been set up and their function has been integrated into the workings of the IMO. They comprise an integral part of the decision making within the office. Future plans for an improvement of the safety of the avalanche prone communities include, further instrumentation in the starting zones as well as in the villages, monitoring weather, precipitation and snow depth. Plans are to adapt nearest neighbour forecasting systems, based both on local and synoptic conditions.
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Keywords: avalanche, evacuation, monitoring, defenses, risk
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