Avalanche Forecast for Sunday, February 3, 2019

This forecast was published 02/03/2019 at 7:17 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

The chance of triggering an avalanche today is unlikely, but the risk of triggering an avalanche large enough to hurt and possibly bury you remains. Wind slabs are primarily in terrain with some degree of an easterly aspect. These can be easily identified from afar by their smooth white appearance or up close by their hollow sounds under your skis or feet. With a mid-winter snowpack now in place on the east side of the range, larger and more connected slopes are creating the potential for large avalanches today. The probability is low, though consequences could be dire. Due to the potential to find and trigger a thin spot in a large wind slab, MODERATE avalanche danger exists today. Some terrain, such as Left Gully and Hillman’s Highway may offer terrain with a degree of scouring that will allow you to avoid today’s avalanche problem. The Northern Gullies in Huntington are a good example of this as well and receive LOW avalanche danger. Smaller and more reactive wind slabs may also be found in isolated, wind sheltered areas.

Printable 2019-02-03

Danger Rating by Zone

Mountain Weather

Yesterday saw temperatures on the summit hover around 0F. West shifting WNW wind was in the 60-70 mph range with a 5-hour period late in the day when speeds increased to 85 mph. Observed snowfall in the afternoon brought a total of 1” of 10% snow to the summit with elevations at 3800’ receiving a trace. The current WNW wind of 54 mph will gradually shift due west and decrease to the 30-45 mph range by mid-morning. Temperatures will see a sharp increase today. The current temperature of 0F on the summit will reach into the teens F by noon, the 20sF by dark and likely above freezing by Monday morning. Elevations below 3500′ will see temperatures reach near freezing by early afternoon. As moisture moves into the region, clouds should develop through the day with precipitation possible late. Liquid precipitation equivalents will be low, under 0.1”, with a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow likely.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab

Aspect/Elevation

Likelihood

Size

Firm wind slab exists in terrain on the eastern half of the compass. Areas in the direct lee of west wind and larger fetch contain wind slabs that could produce a large avalanche, particularly slopes that did not avalanche late last week (see observations of natural activity in Tuckerman, Huntington, and no activity in the Gulf of Slides). While these wind slabs have displayed signs of being stubborn to a human trigger, the cold temperatures have slowed the sintering process and instability lingers. Variability in thickness of the wind slab exists, leaving thin spots that will be hard to discern or areas of softer snow that skiers will likely be drawn toward. These are the places that provide the possibility of triggering today’s low probability, high consequence avalanche problem.

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

The melt/freeze crust that formed January 25 has proven itself as a planar bed surface for avalanche activity. While natural activity has not initiated on the interface of this crust and snow above, many avalanches have stepped down to the crust, leading to the potential for large avalanches today. The wind slab that can be found is generally firm (finger to pencil hard) and supports a skier but may not support bare-booting. This wind slab has bridging strength, but it sits on top of a layer of soft snow (fist hard) that climbers have been plunging into. While the wind slab is strong, thin or softer areas that will provide trigger points do exist and may be places that you are drawn to today for quality of skiing or ease of uphill travel. Continuously evaluating the snowpack you are on and being prepared to alter plans will likely provide a good time in the mountains today.

Additional Concerns

The Sherburne and Gulf of Slides ski trails are snow covered to Pinkham Notch.

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

DateHN24HN24W
(SWE)
Density (%)HSTTotalAir TT MaxT MinSkyPrecipComments
05/20/19
05:30
0 CM 20.4 MM0CM68 CM11.0 C12.0 C3.5 CObscuredNo precipitation
05/19/19
05:25
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM72 CM4.0 C6.0 C2.0 COvercastNo precipitation
05/18/19
05:20
0 CM 7.6 MM0CM80 CM1.0 C6.0 C1.0 COvercastNo precipitation
05/17/19
05:25
0 CM 0.8 MM0CM84 CM4.0 C10.0 C0.0 CClearNo precipitation
05/16/19
05:20
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 02/03/2019 at 7:17 AM.

Helon Hoffer
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest