Avalanche Forecast for Wednesday, February 27, 2019

This forecast was published 02/27/2019 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

The snowpack on Mount Washington is no stranger to high wind events but the past two days were a little unusual. The record setting high wind speeds which would ordinarily strip and scour most of the snow from our terrain was accompanied by moderate snowfall which deposited more snow than expected, in our east facing terrain anyway. A brief window of visibility and moderating wind speeds yesterday revealed sizable, smooth wind slabs deposited almost all the way to the tops of gullies (except the Northern gullies). A brief view of Boott Spur confirmed the notion that wind slabs developed during what could have been a scouring event. Expect wind slabs to exist lower in start zones in terrain to the lee of a west wind. MODERATE avalanche danger exists with human-triggered avalanches possible on recently wind loaded slopes. Lower elevation areas may contain softer and more reactive wind slabs.

2019-2-27 Printable

Danger Rating by Zone

Mountain Weather

No new snow in the past 24 hours following the 25cm that was recorded at Hermit Lake through this storm and subsequent lake effect snowfall. Streamers of moisture from the Great Lakes added to our more typical up-slope enhanced snow and the initial storm on Monday to deposit one and a half inches of SWE on the summit. Yesterday, precipitation wound down while wind continued from the WNW in the 70-90 mph range. Today, NW wind will diminish to 30-45 mph today with ambient air temperature rising to around -5F after a cold start. Current temperature is -18F, up from -27F earlier this morning, on the summit.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab

Aspect/Elevation

Likelihood

Size

Wind slabs built during the recent snowfall and wind event are gaining strength slowly due to the cold temperatures. These wind slabs are likely to be stubborn to the point of being unreactive in the typical mid and upper elevation avalanche paths like Tucks and the Gulf of Slides but possibly more reactive than stubborn in the sheltered locations at lower elevations like the slides on Mount Webster. As with any firm wind slab, triggering often occurs at a thin spot in the slab and propagates through the thicker parts. The thin spot can be at the bottom edge of the slab such as we’ve seen near the floor of Tuckerman Ravine below the Headwall or over a submerged boulder.

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

Post storm. New wind slabs, little sign of the Feb 8 ice crust.

Among the surprises for field observers yesterday was a 3’ crown line on the north side of Raymond’s Cataract. The Lower Snowfields also contained a refilled crown line beneath the rock slab below Dead End gully. Past high wind and snow events have a history of building wind slabs in Lower Snowfields and it seems likely that you could find a similar loading pattern low on gullies and snowfields in Gulf of Slides and anywhere else in the range that has a large flat expanse (fetch) of snow available upwind of a steep open slope or gully. The other surprising field observation yesterday was the lack of old ice crust exposed. The February ice crust been exposed by wind in a number of places in east facing terrain despite 85cm (33”) of snowfall (at Hermit Lake) since its development. The new snow associated with this wind event refilled the terrain nicely, at least on the east side. We hope to gather observations from the west side to see if mid elevation gullies, which have been lacking in snow, have gained any coverage. Please submit photos of west side or any other interesting avalanche activity or developed avalanche paths that you may encounter in the field. You can upload photos and videos here or use #mwacobs or @mwacenter on Instagram.

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 02/27/2019 at 7:04 AM.

Frank Carus
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest