Avalanche Forecast for Tuesday, January 22, 2019

This forecast was published 01/22/2019 at 7:15 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

Wind overnight has had a drastic effect on the recent storm snow, building hard wind slabs that may be possible to human trigger in many areas and scouring others. Be on the lookout for softer wind slabs in wind sheltered terrain, particularly lower elevations, that will be easier to human trigger. If you travel on large areas of hard wind slab today, realize that you’re dealing with a low probability but high consequence avalanche problem. Significant spatial variability and a generally stubborn nature of these hard slabs will make it difficult to gather and apply relevant snowpack observations as you choose terrain. MODERATE avalanche danger exists for most forecast areas today, with the Northern gullies in Huntington Ravine beng the one exception and receiving a LOW danger rating. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible, but an avalanche could be quite large today.

2019-1-22_printable_pdf

 

Danger Rating by Zone

Mountain Weather

Skies have cleared with current NW summit wind around 115 mph, and temperatures are rebounding from a low of -31F yesterday. Wind has increased since yesterday morning while holding generally NW direction, blowing over 100 mph for the past 6 hours. We should see wind speeds drop off significantly by noon today. Temperatures should reach the single digits above zero with cloud cover remaining minimal through daylight hours. We may receive an inch or so of snow tomorrow as temperatures continue to rise towards the freezing mark by late in the day, allowing for potential mixed precipitation.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab

Aspect/Elevation

Likelihood

Size

Sustained NW wind over 100 mph has significantly affected our recent storm snow. Expect large and stubborn wind slab in much of our lee and cross loaded terrain above 3500’ in elevation, and in some areas scouring to older snow surfaces. Smaller pockets of less wind affected snow can likely be found at lower elevations and in particularly sheltered terrain which may remain reactive to a human trigger. Remember that these wind speeds produce wild spatial variability in our upper snowpack when making observations and choosing terrain today.

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 approximately 13” of snow from our recent storm has been affected by a significant wind event that ultimately will be 7-8 hours of NW wind over 100 mph. This means that all of our middle and upper elevation avalanche start zones will be wind affected, either scoured or loaded with stubborn hard wind slab. A few sheltered pockets of more reactive wind slab may exist, but these should be few and far between anywhere in the alpine. Lower elevations will have less wind affected snow. It’s worth remembering the generally upside down, or cohesive over loose, nature of the recent storm snow if you find areas with deep soft snow or softer wind slab. Deeper instabilities are not of much concern at this time. Natural avalanches almost certainly occurred yesterday and last night, and we will post observations as we make them. If you’re out today and see any possible evidence of recent avalanche activity, please take a picture and submit an observation on our website!

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
05/22/19
05:25
Trace 6.2 MMTrace60 CM0.5 C2.0 C-1.0 CClearNo precipitationView
05/21/19
05:25
0 CM 4.2 MM0CM60 CM2.0 C15.0 C2.0 COvercastNo precipitation
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

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
05/21/1934 F23 F .57 in 1.9 in73 MPH135 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/20/1951 F33 F 0.57 in 0.0 in48 MPH82 MPH

250 (WSW)

05/19/1951 F34 F .6 in 0 in34.2 MPH66 MPH

250 (WSW)

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)

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 01/22/2019 at 7:15 AM.

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