Item: An overview of avalanche forecasting in north america
Title: An overview of avalanche forecasting in north america
Proceedings: Proceedings of the 1998 International Snow Science Workshop, Sunriver, Oregon
Authors: Knox Williams, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Denver, Colorado
Abstract: Regional avalanche forecast centers provide valuable public safety services. They are responsible for monitoring and forecasting avalanche danger in back-country areas and along highway corridors. In North America the first center was founded in 1962, followed by the creation of others in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. Currently nine regional avalanche centers operate in North America two in Canada and seven in the United States-and forecast for areas that range in size from 104 to 105 km2. The author conducted a survey to determine the methods, operations, and technologies used by the avalanche centers of North America. This survey proVided information on the scope and size of the centers and methods of data gathering (manned observation sites, automated data sites, stability tests, and data transmission), analyzing and decision-making (computer software, models, numerical or statistical applications), and disseminating forecasts. The consensus that emerged from the survey is that the centers use the latest technologies to gather and receive data (such as automated weather stations) and to disseminate forecasts (such as modem, fax, e-mail, and the Internet). However, few technological aids are used in data analysis and decision making. Rather, all the centers rely on conventional methods of avalanche forecasting based on experience, intuition, and knowledge of prevailing local terrain, weather, and snowpack conditions.
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Keywords: avalanche forecasting, forecast methodology, north america
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