Snow and Avalanche Research

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Snow 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 research and emerging technologies that are readily applied to avalanche forecasting and risk management. 

Avalanche Frequency and Magnitude Studies: Using historical observational datasets and analysis of tree-rings to develop avalanche chronologies, USGS scientists evaluate how avalanche frequency and character vary across space and time and investigate the primary drivers of this variability.   

Wet Snow Avalanche Research: USGS avalanche scientists examine weather, climate, and snowpack variables to unravel the complex nature of factors that contribute to wet snow avalanches.  Understanding the influence of specific climate and snowpack factors will translate into understanding avalanche cycles in a changing climate. 

Remote Sensing Tools Advance Avalanche Research: Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) and Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photogrammetry are methods that show potential for quantifying snowpack variability at a scale useful for avalanche risk assessment. The exploration of these methods, and the use of historical satellite time series imagery, aims to advance understanding of avalanches as a landscape-level disturbance and enhance forecasting capabilities and public safety. 

Going-to-the-Sun Road Avalanche Forecasting Program: In 2002, Glacier National Park instituted its first formal avalanche hazard forecasting program for snow removal operations. In addition to forecasting, the program also provides real-time snow safety and has increased avalanche awareness among equipment operators through regular avalanche safety training.


Related Links For More Information:

USGS Snow and Avalanche Project

Going to the Sun Road Avalanche Story Map

Unraveling the History of Avalanches in Juneau blog