Advanced Technology Provides Aid to Avalanche Forecasting
“That’s changing as satellites, aircraft-mounted sensors and ground-based remote monitoring fast-track the evolution of snow science, giving experts comprehensive insight into the uncanny nature of avalanches.” -Bay Stephens, The Colorado Sun
Stephens, B. (2021, March 1). Satellites, airplanes and lasers are tracking Colorado avalanches. The Colorado Sun. Retrieved From https://coloradosun.com/2021/03/01/satellites-colorado-avalanches-airborne-snow-observatory/
Avalanche detection and forecasts have come a long way since the beginning of the practice in the 1950’s. At the time forecasters relied almost solely on weather patterns to understand where snow might slide. Fast forward almost 70 years and there is growing research into the use of satellites, aircraft, and lasers to understand slide patterns, paths, and snow depth. This advanced technology could not come soon enough as our mountain environments are constantly changing due to the effects of climate change. With radical weather patterns, unusual heating and cooling, and inconsistent snowfall, predicting avalanche tendencies is becoming all the more difficult. These trends are leading to more and more slides and deaths. This year alone, Colorado is tied for it’s deadliest winter on record with eleven deaths thus far. The technology is helping to detect where slides are happening in the backcountry by measuring snow depth and inconsistencies in the snowpack from above. This allows forecasters to cover far more ground than they would be able to on foot or based on reports from various backcountry travelers. The technology has been proven to work, but still too expensive and limited to use on a consistent basis. Regardless, it is a positive sign of things to come in our ever-changing mountain environments.