A member of the Avalanche Canada South Rockies field team gathers important snowpack data that is used to produce daily avalanche forecasts for the region. Photo by Jennifer Coulter.

Warming temperatures increase avalanche risk heading into the weekend

Warm temperatures impact conditions, human behaviour

Incoming warm weather has caught the attention of Avalanche Canada’s forecasters, who say that this significant jump in temperatures presents a concern in terms of an increase in avalanche danger. On March 3, in partnership with Parks Canada and Kananaskis Country issued a special Avalanche Warning.

“Typically around this time of year it definitely gets warmer and that starts to make some uncertainties about the snowpack because the extra energy and heat it adds can cause avalanche conditions,” said Avalanche Canada forecaster Simon Horton.

The temperatures are already climbing but will really start to jump up Thursday and Friday and get really warm in the Southern Interior.

READ MORE: Avalanche Canada issues special warning for southern Rockies

Avalanche Canada is on heightened alert in all their forecast regions, particularly in the southern Rockies and Lizard-Flathead regions, areas that already have had complex snowpacks and tricky avalanche conditions for the past month.

The special avalanche warning applies to:

•North Rockies

•Cariboos

•Jasper National Park

•Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks

•Kananaskis Country

•South Rockies

•Lizard and Flathead

•Waterton Lakes National Park

When snow warms it can add extra stress, particularly deeper into the snowpack and if there are any buried weak layers that can become extra stressed by warming, especially on south facing slopes. That extra stress can cause either a natural avalanche release or make it more sensitive if someone is travelling along that slope.

While warming temperatures can often be accompanied by moderate to heavy precipitation, there isn’t much in the forecast for the region, so Avalanche Canada doesn’t have to worry about that complicating the situation.

March is historically the deadliest month for avalanche fatalities. Horton said this is believed to be caused by both avalanche conditions themselves as well as human behaviour.

There is generally more snow on the ground and snowpack depths are greater in March, so there tends to be more potential layers in the snow as well as more mass for avalanches, so the biggest avalanches typically happen around this time of year.

The increased warming also creates more stress on the snow but it also can have an influence on human behaviour.

“People might let their guards down or underestimate the risk when it feels warm and less wintery out in the mountains,” Horton said.

There is also a distinction between conditions in March and those found later into the springtime, when the snowpack is fully warmed up and melting.

“In those springtime conditions it’s actually quite predictable, the danger goes up and down with the temperatures throughout the day,” Horton explained. “However, in March there’s still cold snow on the ground and that cold snow behaves differently and generally less predictably than a true spring snowpack so it’s kind of this transition period between winter and spring where there’s a lot of things at play in the snowpack.”

As always, the organization reminds everyone travelling in the backcountry to take a training course through the Avalanche Canada training program, have the essential gear including shovel, probe and transceiver and to check the forecast for the most up-to-date local conditions.

The warming is a concern to forecasters in all regions, so pay attention and avoid exposure to slopes that are getting direct sunlight and heating up. Horton also said that in the Fernie area in the Lizard-Flathead range, there’s some problem layers in the snowpack that are creating dangerous avalanche conditions in the treeline as well.

“It’s overall trickier to travel and avoid the problems in Fernie so very simple terrain selection is what we’re encouraging in those areas,” he said.

You can find the most current forecasts and conditions at www.avalanche.ca



paul.rodgers@kimberleybulletin

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

Pictured is mosquito larvae in a body of water. (City of Cranbrook file)
Cranbrook mosquito control program underway

Early tests identify a possible boom in the local mosquito population

Crews and volunteers responded to a four-hectare wildfire on the lower half of the Aqam community lands near Cranbrook on Friday afternoon. Trevor Crawley photo.
Wildfire season gets early start in the East Kootenay

Fire crews, volunteers respond to two local wildfires, while prescribed burns turn weekend skies smoky

Clockwise from top left: The Studio Stage Door (Barry Coulter photo); Spencer Kerr (left) and Ferdy Belland, have along with Casey Wright purchased the historic Armond Theatre in downtown Cranbrook (Barry Coulter photo); St. Eugene Mission Resort (Jim Cameron photo); Juniper Lanes Bowling Alley (Trevor Crawley photo)
Cranbrook’s Heritage Buildings: The Age Of Restoration

Cranbrook History Centre’s next “Ed Talk,” April 28, is “Building Community in Heritage Buildings”

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kimberley's Steve Tersmette has published Waterfall Hikes In Southern British Columbia, documenting 100 of the areas waterfalls.

Most Read