USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center snow and avalanche scientists are asked by the media to comment on a wide variety of topics including basic snow avalanche dynamics, the relationship between recreationalist age and risk of avalanche death, the effect of climate on avalanche behavior, avalanche research at Glacier National Park, and other interesting topics.
USGS Snow and Avalanche Research in the News
Go to Snow and Avalanche Research site.
Below is a list of the recent media coverage our snow and avalanche researchers have received. The title of the article, the media outlet, and the date that article was published is provided. To see the article, just click on the link.
Recent Media Coverage
Technological tools help snow scientists understand avalanches: Billings Gazette (01/26/2023)
Rising Danger: Deseret News (12/26/2022)
Reading between the lines: Flathead Beacon (06/03/2021)
Avalanches Trap Bikers on Going-to-the-Sun Road: Flathead Beacon (05/14/2021)
Juneau’s avalanche history is locked up in the region’s trees: KTOO (03/21/2021)
As Avalanche Deaths Rise, Experts Look At Links Between Climate Crisis, COVID-19: KUNC (03/02/2021)
An Unforgiving Winter: Flathead Beacon (02/24/2021)
As Deaths Surge, Scientists Study the Link Between Climate Change and Avalanches: Inside Climate News (02/23/2021)
Avalanche Victims Are Trending Older: Outdoor Magazine (02/20/2020)
Avalanche Victim Age Rising: Powder Cloud (01/03/2020)
Wet Snow Avalanche Research
Remote Sensing Tools Advance Avalanche Research
Examining Snow Avalanche Frequency and Magnitude
Going-to-the-Sun Road Avalanche Forecasting Program
Snow and Avalanche Research
2020 winter timeseries of UAS derived digital surface models (DSMs) from the Hourglass study site, Bridger Mountains, Montana, USA
Avalanche occurrence records along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana from 2003-2022 (ver. 2.0, November 2022)
Tree ring dataset for a regional avalanche chronology in northwest Montana, 1636-2017
Assessing the seasonal evolution of snow depth spatial variability and scaling in complex mountain terrain
Climate drivers of large magnitude snow avalanche years in the U.S. northern Rocky Mountains
A regional spatio-temporal analysis of large magnitude snow avalanches using tree rings
Research Note: How old are the people who die in avalanches? A look into the ages of avalanche victims in the United States (1950-2018)
Detecting snow depth change in avalanche path starting zones using uninhabited aerial systems and structure from motion photogrammetry
Identifying major avalanche years from a regional tree-ring based avalanche chronology for the U.S. Northern Rocky Mountains
On the exchange of sensible and latent heat between the atmosphere and melting snow
Using structure from motion photogrammetry to examine glide snow avalanches
Case study: 2016 Natural glide and wet slab avalanche cycle, Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
Terrain parameters of glide snow avalanches and a simple spatial glide snow avalanche model
Examining spring wet slab and glide avalanche occurrence along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
Time lapse photography as an approach to understanding glide avalanche activity
Wet Snow Avalanche ResearchWet snow avalanches, including both wet slab and glide avalanches, are dangerous and can be particularly difficult to predict because they are relatively poorly understood compared to dry snow avalanches. They pose significant risk to human life and infrastructure in mountainous areas throughout the world. Wet snow avalanches are caused by weakening in the strength of the snowpack, often triggered...
Remote Sensing Tools Advance Avalanche ResearchThe USGS Snow and Avalanche Project (SNAP) uses remotely sensed technologies to understand snowpack changes that influence water storage, recreation, avalanche hazard and acts as a driver of landscape change. Satellites, uninhabited aerial systems (UAS), and structure-from-motion (SfM) photogrammetry are some of the tools scientists use to collect high resolution imagery that supports ongoing snow...
Examining Snow Avalanche Frequency and MagnitudeSnow avalanches pose substantial risks to human safety, commerce, and infrastructure in mountainous regions across the globe. Avalanches also act as drivers of important ecological change by creating and modifying habitat for flora and fauna. To better understand the dynamic processes of avalanches at multiple scales, the USGS Snow and Avalanche project uses a variety of methods to study avalanche...
Going-to-the-Sun Road Avalanche Forecasting ProgramAs the most popular attraction in Glacier National Park (GNP), the Going-to-the-Sun Road traverses scenic alpine zones and crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass (2026m or 6,647' elevation). The Park closes a 56km (34.8 mile) section of the road each winter due to inclement weather, heavy snowfall, and avalanche hazards. Annual spring opening of the road is a highly anticipated event for...
Snow and Avalanche ResearchSnow scientists with the USGS are unraveling specific weather, climate, and snowpack factors that contribute to large magnitude avalanches in an effort to understand these events as both a hazard and a landscape–level disturbance. The Snow and Avalanche Project (SNAP) advances our understanding of avalanche-climate interactions and wet snow avalanches, and improves public safety through innovative...
2020 winter timeseries of UAS derived digital surface models (DSMs) from the Hourglass study site, Bridger Mountains, Montana, USAUnmanned Aerial System (UAS) flights were conducted over the headwaters of the South Fork of Brackett Creek in the Bridger Mountains of SW Montana during the winter of 2020. The flights collected overlapping imagery focused on a steep mountain couloir study site known locally as "the Hourglass." Structure from motion (SfM) photogrammetry was used to process the collected imagery
Avalanche occurrence records along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana from 2003-2022 (ver. 2.0, November 2022)Starting in 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in West Glacier, MT, in collaboration with the National Park Service, collected avalanche observations along the Going to the Sun Road during the spring road-clearing operations. The spring road-clearing along Going to the Sun Road utilized a team of avalanche specialists from the USGS and Glacier National P
Tree ring dataset for a regional avalanche chronology in northwest Montana, 1636-2017This dataset includes processed tree ring data from avalanche paths in Glacier National Park and the Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana. The data were processed in three distinct phases that resulted in this dataset: collection, processing, and avalanche signal analysis. This dataset consists of samples from 647 trees with 2304 growth disturbances identified from 12 avalanche paths.
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Assessing the seasonal evolution of snow depth spatial variability and scaling in complex mountain terrainDynamic natural processes govern snow distribution in mountainous environments throughout the world. Interactions between these different processes create spatially variable patterns of snow depth across a landscape. Variations in accumulation and redistribution occur at a variety of spatial scales, which are well established for moderate mountain terrain. However, spatial patterns of snow depth v
Climate drivers of large magnitude snow avalanche years in the U.S. northern Rocky MountainsLarge magnitude snow avalanches pose a hazard to humans and infrastructure worldwide. Analyzing the spatiotemporal behavior of avalanches and the contributory climate factors is important for understanding historical variability in climate-avalanche relationships as well as improving avalanche forecasting. We used established dendrochronological methods to develop a long-term (1867–2019) regional
A regional spatio-temporal analysis of large magnitude snow avalanches using tree ringsSnow avalanches affect transportation corridors and settlements worldwide. In many mountainous regions, robust records of avalanche frequency and magnitude are sparse or non-existent. However, dendrochronological methods can be used to fill this gap and infer historical avalanche patterns. In this study, we developed a tree-ring-based avalanche chronology for large magnitude avalanche events (size
Research Note: How old are the people who die in avalanches? A look into the ages of avalanche victims in the United States (1950-2018)Since the winter of 1950-1951, 1084 individuals perished in snow avalanches in the United States. In this study, we analyze the ages of those killed (n=900) by applying non-parametric methods to annual median ages and for age groups and primary activity groups. Change point detection results suggest a significant change in 1990 in the median age of avalanche fatalities. Significant positive trends
Detecting snow depth change in avalanche path starting zones using uninhabited aerial systems and structure from motion photogrammetryUnderstanding snow depth distribution and change is useful for avalanche forecasting and mitigation, runoff forecasting, and infrastructure planning. Advances in remote sensing are improving the ability to collect snow depth measurements. The development of structure from motion (SfM), a photogrammetry technique, combined with the use of uninhabited aerial systems (UASs) allows for high resolution
Identifying major avalanche years from a regional tree-ring based avalanche chronology for the U.S. Northern Rocky MountainsAvalanches not only pose a major hazard to people and infrastructure, but also act as an important ecological disturbance. In many mountainous regions in North America, including areas with existing transportation corridors, reliable and consistent avalanche records are sparse or non-existent. Thus, inferring long-term avalanche patterns and associated contributory climate and weather factors re
On the exchange of sensible and latent heat between the atmosphere and melting snowThe snow energy balance is difficult to measure during the snowmelt period, yet critical for predictions of water yield in regions characterized by snow cover. Robust simplifications of the snowmelt energy balance can aid our understanding of water resources in a changing climate. Research to date has demonstrated that the net turbulent flux (FT) between a melting snowpack and the atmosphere is ne
Using structure from motion photogrammetry to examine glide snow avalanchesStructure from Motion (SfM), a photogrammetric technique, has been used extensively and successfully in many fields including geosciences over the past few years to create 3D models and high resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) from aerial or oblique photographs. SfM has recently been used in a limited capacity in snow avalanche research and shows promise as a tool for broader applications.
Case study: 2016 Natural glide and wet slab avalanche cycle, Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana, USAThe Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) is the premier tourist attraction in Glacier National Park, Montana. The GTSR also traverses through and under 40 avalanche paths which pose a hazard to National Park Service (NPS) road crews during the annual spring snow plowing operation. Through a joint collaboration between the NPS and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a forecasting program primarily dealing w
Terrain parameters of glide snow avalanches and a simple spatial glide snow avalanche modelGlide snow avalanches are dangerous and difficult to predict. Despite substantial recent research there is still inadequate understanding regarding the controls of glide snow avalanche release. Glide snow avalanches often occur in similar terrain or the same locations annually, and repeat observations and prior work suggest that specific topography may be critical. Thus, to gain a better understan
Examining spring wet slab and glide avalanche occurrence along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor, Glacier National Park, Montana, USAWet slab and glide snow avalanches are dangerous and yet can be particularly difficult to predict. Wet slab and glide avalanches are presumably triggered by free water moving through the snowpack and the subsequent interaction with layer or ground interfaces, and typically occur in the spring during warming and subsequent melt periods. In Glacier National Park (GNP), Montana, both types of avalanc
Time lapse photography as an approach to understanding glide avalanche activityAvalanches resulting from glide cracks are notoriously difficult to forecast, but are a recurring problem for numerous avalanche forecasting programs. In some cases glide cracks are observed to open and then melt away in situ. In other cases, they open and then fail catastrophically as large, full-depth avalanches. Our understanding and management of these phenomena are currently limited. It is th