Avalanche Forecast for Monday, December 17, 2018

This forecast was published 12/17/2018 at 7:04 AM.
A new forecast will be issued tomorrow.

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will no longer issue daily avalanche forecasts for the 2018/19 season. Read more

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will no longer issue daily avalanche forecasts for the 2018/19 season. Instead, we will post an updated General Bulletin as needed, in case of significant snow or weather events that might vary from the typical daily changes that come with spring weather. We will also keep you informed about the official closure of the portion of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Lunch Rocks through the Lip and Headwall as well as the switch from the Lion Head Winter Route to the summer trail. Observations from the field will continue to be a valuable resource, so please keep submitting photos, videos and observations here and we will do the same. Check the Forecast page for update on Sherburne Trail closures, which are imminent as spring snowmelt continues.

The switch to a General Bulletin does NOT mean that the mountains are now a safe place to ski. The hazards which emerge in the spring are significant and require careful assessment and strategic management. If you have never skied Tuckerman, peruse our Incidents and Accidents page for spring related incidents involving avalanches, long sliding falls, icefall, crevasse and moat falls, and other incidents related to diurnal changes in the snowpack. These will help you understand and plan for these hazards.

The Bottom Line

Moderate amounts of snowfall occurring today will result in increasing avalanche danger. We expect avalanche danger to peak after dark tonight. Additionally, the relatively small amount of snow which has accumulated on light wind in much of our terrain will mask the varied snow surface which preceded the current storm. Today’s avalanche danger ratings are based on a fairly uncertain weather forecast, and actual avalanche danger may be greater or lesser based on how the weather plays out. As always but particularly today, please consider our forecast a starting point for your snowpack observations and terrain decisions. All avalanche terrain may reach CONSIDERABLE before this forecast expires at midnight.

2018-12-17 Printable PDF

Danger Rating by Zone

Mountain Weather

It’s currently snowing with just under an inch of snow recorded overnight at our Hermit Lake snow plot. Expect snowfall to initially taper off through midday before upslope snow showers build later today and tonight. All told we could see up to an 8 inch storm snowfall total. There is a fair bit of uncertainty in that number due to potential variability of upslope snow totals which account for most of this forecast storm total. Wind is more certain to be a player in our stability equation, with the current light to moderate SE wind forecast to shift through E to NW today and begin to increase towards sustained summit winds around 80 mph tomorrow. The current temperatures which are just below freezing in the alpine will steadily drop overnight by nearly 30 degrees on the higher summits, to just below 0F by tomorrow morning.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab




New wind slab developing on today’s snowfall and increasing NW wind will be sensitive to a human trigger. Size and distribution will depend on timing and amount of new snow and wind. There is potential for new wind slabs to be large and likely to human trigger by the time this forecast expires at midnight tonight. Older wind slabs, ranging greatly in hardness and sensitivity, may be possible to human trigger and are likely masked by this morning’s new snow. Ultimately an avalanche in new snow today could step down to these older layers, though significant spatial variability makes this challenging to predict. Wind from the NW this afternoon will combine with previous scouring to generally minimize these avalanche problems on the western half of the compass rose.

What is a Windslab Avalanche?

  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.

Snowpack and Avalanche Discussion

New wind slab will build today, tonight, and continue to be affected by sustained extreme wind tomorrow. Size and sensitivity of new slabs in the alpine will be directly determined by precipitation amount and timing of the increase in NW wind later today. Peak instability will likely occur after dark today, and if wind forecast numbers hold true we should see slabs become increasingly hard and stubborn tomorrow. These new wind slabs will form on a varied surface, particularly on easterly aspects. This surface includes soft to firm wind slab of varying sensitivity, areas previously scoured to the Dec. 3 crust, and some areas of sun crust. Facets have been observed around the Dec. 3 crust, particularly just below the crust, but likely won’t be a factor in much of our terrain due to the crust remaining relatively robust. Limited snow accumulation at elevations below approximately 3500 feet will result in minimal if any development of a new avalanche problem today.

Additional Concerns

Ski trails in the Pinkham Notch area remain snow covered.

Avalanche Safety Information Study

Please contribute to the effort to improve backcountry avalanche forecasts! Researchers in Canada devised a study to better understand how we communicate the avalanche risk, and we need your help. Please fill out this survey. It will take a few minutes, but it will help us as we work on new ways to give you the most important avalanche information.

Snow Plot Information

Density (%)HSTTotalAir TT MaxT MinSkyPrecipComments
0 CM 20.4 MM0CM68 CM11.0 C12.0 C3.5 CObscuredNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM72 CM4.0 C6.0 C2.0 COvercastNo precipitation
0 CM 7.6 MM0CM80 CM1.0 C6.0 C1.0 COvercastNo precipitation
0 CM 0.8 MM0CM84 CM4.0 C10.0 C0.0 CClearNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM84 CM1.0 C1.5 C0.0 CFewNo precipitation

Avalanche Log and Summit Weather

Daily Observations

Thank you Mount Washington Observatory for providing daily weather data from the summit of Mount Washington.

DateMax TempMin TempTotal (SWE)24H Snow & IceWind AvgWind Fastest MileFastest Mile DirAvalanche Activity
05/18/1934 F26 F 0.06 in 0.5 in39 MPH74 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/17/1940 F28 F .22 in .05 in37 MPH81 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/16/1932 F25 F .03 in 04 in22.8 MPH40 MPH

310 (NW)

05/15/1926 F20 F .05 in .4 in32.1 MPH67 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/14/1928 F17 F .2 in 2 in19.1 MPH57 MPH

100 (E)

05/13/1928 F19 F .07 in 0.9 in34.6 MPH67 MPH

100 (E)

05/12/1931 F17 F 0 in 0 in20.5 MPH47 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/11/1932 F18 F .1 in 0 in53.6 MPH84 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/10/1944 F27 F .85 in 0 in50.1 MPH88 MPH

220 (SW)

05/09/1942 F20 F .04 in 0 in18.6 MPH44 MPH

190 (S)

05/08/1927 F18 F 0 in 0 in38.3 MPH65 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/07/1939 F26 F .54 in 0 in40 MPH66 MPH

270 (W)

Please Remember:

Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This forecast is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.

Avalanche danger may change when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.

For more information contact the US Forest Service Snow Rangers, AMC visitor services staff at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or seasonally at the Harvard Cabin (generally December 1 through March 31). The Mount Washington Ski Patrol is also available on spring weekends.

Posted 12/17/2018 at 7:04 AM.

Ryan Matz, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest