2002 Annual

Thursday, 17 January 2002: 4:45 PM
The Sierra Weather & Avalanche Center
Elizabeth J. Carter, Firnspiegel LLC, Kings Beach, California
Poster PDF (1.8 MB)
Firnspiegel LLC is an atmospheric and snow consulting company based at Lake Tahoe, California, in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. During the 2000-2001 winter season Firnspiegel launched the Sierra Weather and Avalanche Center (SWAC). The center disseminates regional Sierra avalanche and weather forecasts on a daily basis via its Internet site.

Why a new avalanche center? The Sierra Nevada Range encompasses an area of 3,800 square miles and the average annual snowfall varies from 50 to over 500 inches. Prior to the establishment of SWAC only one blanket avalanche forecast was provided for the Sierra. More detailed and site-specific forecasts are necessary as there are sharp regional and local-scale gradients in weather and climate behavior. The Sierra are unique in the snowfall they receive, as they are affected by both maritime and continental air masses. As over 80% of Sierra avalanches are weather-related bringing together weather forecasting and snow science was a logical and necessary combination.

The numbers of backcountry users (e.g., skiers, snowboarders, snowmobiles) have increased dramatically in the past ten years. This increased use along with new technologies has spurred the formation of the Sierra Weather and Avalanche Center. SWAC is merging the use of GIS technology with weather and avalanche products to more easily visualize forecast information. Potential users of SWAC include backcountry travelers, local safety services, transportation departments, general public, mountaineers, local governments, and the ski/snow industry.

The weather and avalanche center is based on the need for avalanche forecasts with increased spatial and temporal resolution. The forecast center plans to increase and improve users of the Sierra access to 1. Current snowfall and snowpack observations, 2. Current weather data, and 3. Dissemination of avalanche and winter recreation information for a SPECIFIC AREA OF INTEREST. Users will be able to point and click on area maps to zero in on their area of interest. The center is currently a work in progress and is initially a self-funded effort.

Supplementary URL: http://www.firnspiegel.com/swac_home.html