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Wed. 14.03.2018
update 14.03.18 7:33 (Michael Butschek - translated by Jeffrey McCabe)

Snowdrifts, gliding snow, wet snow



Some fresh snow atop a moist surface, at high altitudes atop hardened surface. At low altitude the snow is thoroughly wet. Fresh snowdrifts on high altitude Northern Alps slopes from W/NW winds and older drifts on north-facing slopes. Elsewhere, main problem: gliding avalanches and loosely-packed wet-snow avalanches, released artificially or naturally.

Avalanche Danger

Avalanche danger is generally MODERATE (2). The reasons: fresh snowdrifts from W/NW winds, gliding snow and loss of snowpack firmness during the day.

At high and high alpine altitudes in the Northern Alps there are fresh, easily triggered, thin snowdrifts for slab avalanches, esp. on NW to SE facing slopes. Older danger zones are found in the Tauern and Nockberge foehn lanes (NW-N-NE), primarily triggerable by large additional loading. Trigger spots are near ridgelines, in transitions from shallow to deep snow and the entry points to gullies and bowls.
Also: wet-snow problem at low altitudes and naturally triggered gliding avalanches. Some small-to-medium releases with fractures of 100-200 cm can be expected again today, esp. on 40° gradient slopes up to 2300 m. Avoid all zones where glide cracks are visible in the snowpack surface. Furthermore, loosely-packed wet-snow avalanches can be triggered by skiers or naturally, especially in sun-drenched steep terrain below 2000 m.

Snow Layering

The snowpack is thoroughly wet at low altitudes, it has no further reserves of cold. Above 1000 m there has been 5-10 cm of fresh snow registered, also some graupel. The snowpack is at least superficially moist up to 2500 m. In wind-exposed high altitude terrain (mostly in the Northern Alps, in isolated spots of the Tauern) the W/NW winds have transported the fresh snow; elsewhere there was little wind impact. Up to 2300 m, increased gliding snow masses were observed yesterday.

At high altitudes (above 2200 m) hardened crusts dominate beneath the fresh snow. Compacted snowdrift accumulations which formed over the last few days are found on extended north-facing slopes, particularly in the Nockberge. Potential bed surfaces are found beneath the drifts, but they are not trigger-sensitive, and vary highly from place to place.

Alpine Weather Forecast (ZAMG Salzburg)

This morning, visibility is often impeded by snow showers and cloud. This afternoon, the cloud will disperse, visibility improve. Temperatures at 2000 m will be between -6 and -3 degrees; at 3000 m; -12 degrees. This morning, strong westerly winds will be blowing (gusts up to 50 km/hr), then slacken off during the afternoon.
Tonight, skies will clear. Fog will spread at low altitudes.
Tomorrow, Thursday, widespread sunshine in the morning. During the course of the day, dense cloud will spread out on the Main Alpine Ridge, bringing a small amount of precipitation. Strong to storm-strength southerly winds, along the Tauern reaching velocities of 90 to 110 km/hr. At 2000 m: +1 degree; at 3000 m: -4 degrees.

Short Term Development

Tomorrow, fresh snowdrifts generated by stormy southerly winds. Daytime loss of snowpack firmness due to higher temperatures.

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