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Issued
Wed, December 5th, 2018 - 7:00AM
Expires
Thu, December 6th, 2018 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger remains  MODERATE  above 2500′ in the Alpine. As easterly winds continue, triggering a wind slab in steep terrain will be possible.  Additionally, triggering a slab avalanche 1-3′ thick, releasing on buried surface hoar, is still possible though trending to a lower likelihood.

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Wed, December 5th, 2018
Alpine
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
Treeline
1,000'-2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
0 - No Rating
Avalanche risk
0 - No Rating
1 - Low
2 - Moderate
3 - Considerable
4 - High
5 - Extreme
Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk
Travel Advice Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern. Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding, and conservative decision-making essential. Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended. Extraordinarily dangerous avalanche conditions. Avoid all avalanche terrain.
Likelihood of Avalanches Natural and human-triggered avalanches unlikely. Natural avalanches unlikely; human-triggered avalanches possible. Natural avalanches possible; human-triggered avalanches likely. Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely. Natural and human-triggered avalanches certain.
Avalanche Size and Distribution Small avalanches in isolated areas or extreme terrain. Small avalanches in specific areas; or large avalanches in isolated areas. Small avalanches in many areas; or large avalanches in specific areas; or very large avalanches in isolated areas. Large avalanches in many areas; or very large avalanches in specific areas. Very large avalanches in many areas.
Avalanche Problem 1
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
  • Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
    Size
Wind Slabs
Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

Sustained moderate winds from the east have been blowing for four days and will remain, to varying degrees, over the region again today. These winds have redistributed the snow and formed wind slabs and not-so-fun crusts is many areas; see Monday’s field report from Turnagain HERE. Wind slabs could be found in steep terrain and could be hard enough, and stubborn enough, to allow a person on to them before popping loose. Look for stiff, pillowed snow, cracking and listen for hollow, drum-like sounds. 

Wind effect along Sunburst Ridge looking north toward Tincan Ridge.

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
  • Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
    Size
Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) in the middle to upper snowpack, when the bond to an underlying persistent weak layer breaks. Persistent layers include: surface hoar, depth hoar, near-surface facets, or faceted snow. Persistent weak layers can continue to produce avalanches for days, weeks or even months, making them especially dangerous and tricky. As additional snow and wind events build a thicker slab on top of the persistent weak layer, this avalanche problem may develop into a Deep Persistent Slab.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

At the upper elevations we are keeping tabs on a thin layer of buried surface hoar sitting 1-3′ below the surfaceAn observer Sunday found this layer to still be reactive in a snowpit on Sunburst right around 2500′. Monday at 3100′ on Sunburst there were no results testing this layer but it was very easy to spot laid over in the snowpack. Side note, this layer was unreactive last week at 3,150′ on Tincan as well. The concern is finding a slope with buried surface hoar that is still intact, upright and reactive enough that it propagates into an avalanche. At this point obvious signs of instability may not be seen but some lingering suspicion is advised even as the likelihood decreases. As always use safe travel protocol and choose terrain with consequences in mind. For example, where is the avalanche path and where would I end up if the slope slides? 

 

Pastoral Peak, looking east from Sunburst through Taylor Pass. Note the crown of a large avalanche under the rock band on Pastoral – earthquake triggered slab on Nov 30th. This avalanche likely released on the Nov. 23 buried surface hoar. 

 

Surface conditions below 1,500′ at Turnagain Pass.

Weather
Wed, December 5th, 2018

Yesterday:   Mostly cloudy to obscured skies were over the area. Ridgetop winds over the past 24 hours have been moderate (10-20mph) from the east with gusts up to 40mph. Temperatures have climbed overnight and sit in the mid 30’sF at 1,000′ and the upper 20’sF along ridgetops this morning.

Today:    Partly cloudy to cloudy skies are expected with a chance for a few raindrops below 1,500′ and snowflakes above 1,500′. No measureable precip is forecast. Ridgetops winds will remain easterly in the 15-20mph range with gusts to the 40’s. Temperatures should remain warm, with daytime highs up to 38F at 1,000′ and 30F along ridgetops.  

Tomorrow:    Unsettled warm weather is forecast to continue with rain and snow showers picking up Thursday afternoon and intensifying on Friday. Our friends at the NWS said this about the upcoming system  The track of the storm favors western Prince William Sound/eastern  Kenai Peninsula for some of the heaviest precipitation with strong  east to southeast upslope flow. Warm air accompanying the low  means most of this will be in the form of rain”. The rain/snow like for Friday looks to push into the 2,000′ plus range.  

 *Seattle Ridge wind sensor is rimed over. Alyeska Mid Wx Station and Summit Lake Snotel snow depth sensor are not functioning.

PRECIPITATION 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 33   1   0.1   13  
Summit Lake (1400′) 29   0   0   5 (estimate)  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 32   trace   0.23   0.2  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 25   NE   15   42  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 28   *no data   *no data     *no data    
Observations
Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
02/19/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Base of Seattle Ridge
02/18/24 Turnagain Observation: Lynx creek
02/18/24 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Trees
02/17/24 Turnagain Observation: Turnagain (below the uptrack)
02/15/24 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst
02/13/24 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Backdoor, Center Ridge
02/12/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Tincan Trees
02/11/24 Turnagain Observation: Cornbiscuit
02/10/24 Turnagain Observation: Tincan
02/04/24 Turnagain Observation: Eddie’s
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This is a general backcountry avalanche advisory issued for Turnagain Arm with Turnagain Pass as the core advisory area. This advisory does not apply to highways, railroads or operating ski areas.