Item: The challenges for scottish avalanche forecasters observing a maritime snowpack
Title: The challenges for scottish avalanche forecasters observing a maritime snowpack
Proceedings: International Snow Science Workshop, Davos 2009, Proceedings
Authors: Mark Diggins
Abstract: Avalanche Forecasting in the Highlands of Scotland presents many challenges for the Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service forecast team, the maritime climate and latitude of the operational areas ensure that the weather patterns are complex and often severe, the snowpack is varied and the stability changes rapid. Additionally, the user groups commonly carry out their mountain activities in poor weather conditions, a factor influencing the SAIS operational methods. In this paper we will describe the geography, landscape and reason for the location of the five SAIS observation areas and present an impression of the working conditions and method in an environment and weather system that can produce winds of 176mph (283kph) and frequently 40-70mph (65-120kph) and consider the characteristics of the Scottish snowpack. We will present the avalanche occurrences observed in the 5 areas for the winter 08/09 relating the findings to weather conditions at the time and the stated avalanche hazard, establishing that the avalanche occurrences occurred predominantly during the snow storm-cycles. Unlike in Alpine countries the mountain user groups who carry out walking and climbing excursions in the Scottish Highlands are mainly on foot, with very small numbers on ski. Their general behaviour and objectives are influenced by the scarcity of good climbing and stable weather conditions. Therefore it is common practice to carry out activities in poor weather and during considerable hazard conditions. In this regard we will look at data from the winter of 08/09 to identify if indeed, avalanche incidents involving people, occurred during periods of considerable hazard and poor weather.
Keywords: scotland, forecasting, challenges
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