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Author Topic: Avalanche Potential Mapping  (Read 2597 times)
davidG
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Avalanche Potential Mapping
« on: 09/01/17, 01:39 PM »

Well, saw this announcement, not live yet.. Can guess where the data comes from.. They do an interesting job on fire mapping, so maybe this will be of interest. Avalanche potential
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"Maybe we should ban hikers from anywhere that there is a potential threat to surface water?" [courtesy Newtrout, 2011]

"Good for you for getting it and thank goodness I wasn't there with you." [courtesy mikerolfs, 2014]
PhilH
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #1 on: 09/03/17, 06:17 AM »

Thanks for the link. The fire mapping is very interesting.
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hefeweizen
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #2 on: 09/24/17, 09:47 AM »

I have some reservations about this and will be curious to see what they roll out. The "fire mapping" product appears to simply pull off the InciWeb site, I fail to see how it is any different than simply visiting that provider.

Will this product simply be an overlay of slope angle shading similar to what CalTopo already does? Or will be it be NWAC/Regional Avalanche Center's forecast overlayed? A combination of the two? What I don't want to see is any sort of product that the general public may unintentionally rely on to tell them what is "safe" terrain. People love to use technology to make their lives easier, but it's possible that this will encourage folks to shortcut the trip planning process of their travel in avalanche terrain, which I think is a very important step that deserves active consideration.  If they are going to put someone else's existing forecast over a map and call it a new product, what is the point? That will only serve to confuse users.
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CookieMonster
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WWW
Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #3 on: 10/16/17, 10:39 PM »

I agree with hefeweizen, only I'm not prepared to be nearly as charitable in my remarks!

This is a spectacularly bad idea, and worse, it's absolutely and totally unsupported by science. That makes it pseudo-science, which is harmless at best, and dangerous at worst.

With respect to mapping 'avalanche potential', there is one particular source of uncertainty that must be absolutely respected:

* Uncertainty due to incremental changes to the snowpack across space and time.

Even if you have high-resolution stratigraphy for a fairly large area ( which they won't ) and the results of numerous tests, including shear frame tests, ice grain analysis, etc. ( which they won't ), and even if you collect astoundingly meticulous records, you simply cannot make a prediction for anything larger than a single slope. As just about everyone here already knows, it's debatable if you can even use this information to make a safe prediction for a single slope.

But once someone takes this information and makes a map from it, it gains an air of certainty and respectability that it most certainly does not deserve.

A few years ago, NWAC introduced a feature on their web site that overlaid the public avalanche forecast onto maps of the forecast area. I wrote a blog post critical of the idea, and my thoughts haven't changed.

http://avalanchesafety.blogspot.com/2012/04/pseudoscience.html

It wasn't a good idea when NWAC did it, and there is no chance in hell that this outfit is more qualified than NWAC.
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peteyboy
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #4 on: 10/16/17, 11:46 PM »

Not interested in a pile-on slam, BUT.... yes, I agree, the cultural thirst for information (like easy access) may render this product more harmful than good.  But what I feel I must mention is that the fire map shows no fires within 100 miles of Santa Rosa, CA today.
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RonL
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #5 on: 10/17/17, 06:43 AM »

I don't know cookie. I think the nwac maps have to have some positive role in mitigating risk in some of their audience. I imagine a lot of people on the red days choose lifts or another activity. Too many considerable days with great trip reports from the lot of us probably creates a confusing grey area. Maybe some more specific definitions based on snow profiles would make the changing of stoplight maps more useful?
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davidG
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #6 on: 10/17/17, 07:50 AM »

I noticed that, too, Petey.  And more interestingly that Inciweb had nothing either, and agreeing with Hefe that Inciweb is the go-to compiling authority and provides probably most of the data for this project.
But I'm still going to reserve judgement on how the avy map comes down.  I get what Cookie is saying, but I can't imagine these guys just painting red, yellow, or green across the State..  I like the idea of a single broad map, clickable, that takes you to authoritative info, whether it be from NWAC or any of the other Pro offiices, without opening and closing a dozen pages.  Are more easily accessible INFO and safety mutually exclusive?  Hell yeah, pile on, but maybe with ideas on how to make a broad scale system useful and successful.

eta grammar correction..
« Last Edit: 10/17/17, 11:36 AM by davidG » Logged

"Maybe we should ban hikers from anywhere that there is a potential threat to surface water?" [courtesy Newtrout, 2011]

"Good for you for getting it and thank goodness I wasn't there with you." [courtesy mikerolfs, 2014]
Jason4
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #7 on: 11/30/17, 12:11 PM »

here's a quote that you wrote from your link and I was curious as to why you believe this tool would be acceptable for commercial users and not the General Public.

"It's one thing to implement something as an experiment, or even as a tool for professionals, but it is another thing entirely to make it available to the general public, who may not understand the limitations."

 Do you  believe that commercial users hold a higher level of skill in assessing Avalanche potential  then the General Public? If so, what science are you using to base your conclusions on?

Personally I believe that maps that show actual avalanche occurrences, cross referenced with weather and snowpack observations would be useful to anyone. I doubt that data pool exists however.


I would have said the same thing, the concern isn't with the most competent and capable users of the information which would include professionals and some or most users on this site, the concern is with the least competent and capable users of the information.  The nature of a professional is that incompetence is not rewarded with a paycheck (ideally) and so incompetent users who are likely to misuse or misunderstand the data or mistakenly use obviously bad data without cross referencing field observations will not last very long as professionals.  A paycheck is an easy identifier of someone who has some minimal amount of experience and training beyond a casual interest, it's a little harder to draw that line in the recreational crowd. 

Maybe recreationalists should get complimentary access upon completion of a level 2 avalanche course or they must pay a nominal sum that is enough to show that they are serious about wanting access to the information but not so much that it prohibits a genuine user of the information from having access.  How would that value be determined?  Both of those methods of limiting access come with a real cost to the user which is arguably not fair either.
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davidG
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #8 on: 12/01/17, 01:14 PM »

You may have noticed these guys have fired up their avalanche page.  Beta maybe.  https://www.fireweatheravalanche.org/avalanche  .  Not what I was looking for..
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"Maybe we should ban hikers from anywhere that there is a potential threat to surface water?" [courtesy Newtrout, 2011]

"Good for you for getting it and thank goodness I wasn't there with you." [courtesy mikerolfs, 2014]
RonL
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #9 on: 12/01/17, 01:57 PM »

I'm confused. The word slope is in green for git r done but the line for the slope is yellow for hold yer horses? I'd love to get back to the wallywas though.
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BCSchonwald
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #10 on: 12/11/17, 09:16 AM »

There is nothing here, no original source forecasting, terrain/snow pack analysis. The products are basic and do not add info to existing forecasts. Also they do not show who is doing the forecasting and developing the products reducing their credibility.

So far the only mapping that is used consistently is the ATES scale by Parks Canada http://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/mtn/securiteenmontagne-mountainsafety/avalanche, New Zealand, and Andorra http://lauegi.conselharan.org/ates/. ATES only addresses exposure then ties it to the daily forecast.
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BCSchonwald
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #11 on: 12/11/17, 02:17 PM »

I need google translate to understand how you interpreted my response to what NWAC does. Trolling is not the same as responding, good luck promoting your agenda elsewhere.

are you actively trying to discredit this new approach?

It's not like nwac is actually giving out accurate information when they don't disclose the exact location where a snowpack analysis was performed or when an avalanche is reported on a man-made structure such as a road fill along Highway 20 or that a guided group was involved in an Avalanche incident.

I remember two such incidents during  different years in our area where propagation was reported by commercial Observers in our area where important location facts were not included in the report.

One was an avalanche and one was a propagating fracture.

Pictures were included in the report and if you're familiar with the area you could line up the background. A friend did the location analysis, So I went out and took a look. Both instabilities occurred on Highway 20 Road fills, IE man-made structures. These Road fill areas always deserve caution.

 However these reports were intended to indicate extreme instability in the snowpack that just did not exist elsewhere in the natural snow pack.

The report of the Avalanche was substantiated with pit data taken from further up on the mountain as an example of buried surface Frost being the weak layer. I went up and took a look at that snow analysis pit. It was located in an area where if you wanted to find surface buried surface Frost you can always find it there and was in no way correlated with the Avalanche that was reported along the road fill. But once again that location fact that it was on the road fill was not reported by  nwac.

Roadfill areas along Highway 20 are notorious for large crystal growth. They are made up of Rock fill, there is an active Creek below them, they are steep, they have a guardrail embedded in the snow pack, and they are influenced by road salt accumulation. Highway 20 itself is a  wind funnel not to mention the snowmobile traffic on the road itself stressing the snowpack around it.

In other words these are man-made structures. It would be like me reporting an avalanche on my solar panels and pretending those instability conditions existed throughout the mountains.

 it's surprising to me that  nwac cannot see that there is a conflict of interest when they hire commercial guides to be their field Observers. How can anyone not believe that there is an inherit bias that has the potential for a negative outcome on public safety.

It's very similar to how commercial ski areas exaggerate their ski reports to drum up customers.

I'd also like to point out that these are valid observations however without exact location they are subject to misinterpretation.





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RonL
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Re: Avalanche Potential Mapping
« Reply #12 on: 12/11/17, 06:13 PM »

Hmm, the ATES scale is interesting in some ways and could be controversial when applied to access rules. The Andorra map looks like it gets a bit more specific which is satisfying. My french is rusty so I can't really tell how static it is or if the map changes ratings for something like wind loading as an example. I like the Canadian pdfs they made for some of their popular routes. It seems like that would be a good reminder to have pop up on the internet when people are at home planning routes or searching for beta. I tried to check out the Kiwis maps and it looks like they just took the whole season off!
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