Avalanche Forecast for Wednesday, December 5, 2018

This forecast was published 12/05/2018 at 7:02 AM.
A new forecast will be issued tomorrow.


This is an archived avalanche forecast and expired on 12/05/2018 at midnight.

The Bottom Line

Winds from the northwest blew yesterday at an ideal speed to transport 1.5” of very low density snow that fell at upper elevations. Low visibility did not allow field observations but anticipate new wind slabs to have formed on east-facing aspects, beneath buttresses and steep slopes. These small wind slabs are sitting on a glazed, refrozen crust and could be reactive. The predominant surface in steep terrain, out of the trees, will be a supportive icy surface that’s well suited for setting sliding speed records. The guiding principle for safe travel has little to do with self-arrest and everything to do with not falling down. The avalanche danger is Low in all forecast areas today. The steepest and most sheltered areas may hold thicker wind slabs that push the upper end of this rating.




Forecast Area

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Mountain Weather

The past three days brought classic New England weather that ran the gamut from snow, sleet and freezing rain with summit temperatures ranging from 36F to -5F. After the warm up turned the upper snowpack to slush, 4” of snow fell, which was soon soaked again with rain then capped with sleet and further glazed with freezing rain. Yep, a pretty classic New England tour of precipitation types. Yesterday, 1.5” of 5% density snow on the higher summits blew in on top of this surface as temperatures dropped to a low of -5F. A trace fell at Hermit Lake. Today, high pressure centered over the area will allow wind to diminish with a light northwest and west wind. Mostly clear skies, good visibility and light wind should make for a fine but cold day. Clouds may begin to move in during daylight hours this afternoon. Temps will reach 10F on the summits, high 20’s in the valleys.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab




Be wary of unstable wind slabs in steep terrain. You could trigger a small avalanche from areas where snow has accumulated and formed firm slabs of snow over softer snow. You may be lured onto this softer snow in order to avoid traveling on the bulletproof, icy surface. If so, consider the potential for one of these wind slabs to pop off and send you sliding.

  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

There is currently 110cm of snow on the ground at Hermit Lake and 93cm at Gray Knob. At least two crust layers are present in the snow pack which has actually seen remarkably few warming events over the past 6 weeks. Look for facets to develop near these crusts as temperatures drop again this week. A cold front may bring some upslope snow to the higher summits Thursday night. The icy surface will not encourage bonding of new snow, especially considering the cold temperatures that seem likely on Thursday.

Snow Plot Information

Density (%)HSTTotalAir TT MaxT MinSkyPrecipComments
0 CMTrace 0CM0 CM8.0 C11.0 C0.5 CBrokenNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM0 CM7.5 C7.5 C1.0 CScatteredNo precipitation
0 CM 22.3 MM0CM0 CM1.5 C4.0 C0.0 COvercastNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM0 CM0.5 C11.0 C0.5 CClearNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM10 CM8.0 C15.5 C8.0 CClearNo precipitation

Avalanche Log and Summit Weather

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
05/30/1946 F36 F 0 in 0 in27.9 MPH55 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/29/1947 F33 F 0 in 0 in20 MPH48 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/28/1934 F28 F .71 in 3.7 in20 MPH48 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/27/1940 F27 FTrace 0 in38.9 MPH68 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/26/1948 F39 F .77 in 0 in48.7 MPH75 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/25/1947 F31 F .42 in 0 in17.7 MPH63 MPH

240 (WSW)

05/24/1942 F32 F .66 in 0 in44.8 MPH105 MPH

05/23/1944 F30 F .16 in 0 in26.8 MPH71 MPH

270 (W)

05/22/1934 F21 F 0 in 0 in36.2 MPH115 MPH

330 (NNW)

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)

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 12/05/2018 at 7:02 AM.

Frank Carus
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest