THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 23, 2017 @ 5:39 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 22, 2017 @ 5:39 am
Issued by Graham Turnage - Taos Avalanche Center

2. Moderate

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Above Treeline

2. Moderate

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Near Treeline

2. Moderate

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Below Treeline

The avalanche danger is rated LOW on all slopes this morning, but will quickly rise to MODERATE by midday.  Human triggered loose wet and wet slab avalanches are possible due to warm temps and direct sun.  Carefully monitor surface snow warming, and avoid any slopes showing signs like snowballing and pinwheeling.  The window of good, supportable corn is a short one, so get out there early and make your exit before the snowpack loses its structure.

  • Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
Avalanche Problem 1: Loose Wet
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Warm temps and direct, high angle sun will make loose wet avalanches possible today.  Overnight lows have not given the snowpack a solid freeze in almost a week, and the superficial surface crust will break down easily by mid morning.  Pinwheels and roller balls are clear signs that the snowpack is saturated, and ski and board penetration will increase rapidly as liquid water begins to penetrate deeper into the snowpack.  Remember that even a small loose wet slide has an enormous amount of mass, and can ruin your day in a hurry.

Avalanche Problem 2: Wet Slab
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Overnight lows only dipped into the 30s in the mountains, and have only provided for a superficial freeze right at the snow surface, which will quickly break down.  Mid-morning warming makes human triggered wet slab avalanches possible by midday, as free water penetrates the snowpack, creating a MODERATE avalanche danger.  Areas that contain buried crusts and weak layers are highly suspect, as these layers provide a pooling surface for liquid water, undercutting the snowpack above.  Smaller loose wet slides may be enough of a trigger to step down and cause dangerous wet slab avalanches.

advisory discussion

One more day of warm, sunny spring weather is in store today.  The snowpack story is much the same as it has been the last several days - loose wet and wet slab avalanches are today's concern, which elevate the avalanche danger to MODERATE on all slopes by midday.  Strong solar input and warm temps have eradicated the cold from our snowpack in several areas - leaving us with a variable and questionable sliding surface underfoot.  Morning corn runs have been great, but the window is short, with significant melting and loss of structure by 10:30 or 11 am on most slopes.  Increasing winds may help slow the melting process today, but the superficial surface crust will likely break down as soon as the morning sun arrives.  As your ski and board penetration increases to more than a couple of inches, it's time to find colder, more supportable slopes.  Low elevation exits are tricky, as several zones have gone isothermal (uniformly 0˚C) and you may find yourself sporadically crashing through to the ground. 

Loose wet avalanches can start small and potentially entrain enough mass to step down and trigger larger, more dangerous wet slabs (see recent obs below).  These slabs are hard to predict and pack a destructive punch.  Enjoy the morning corn, but if you get out in the backcountry, carefully monitor the warming of the snow surface and adjust your travel plans accordingly.  Forecasts are calling for a return of winter weather later in the week and next week, which should change the avalanche conditions drastically - stay tuned!  

I will issue the next advisory on Thursday morning, and if you get out into the backcountry, please share any observations with us at toasavalanchecenter@gmail.com or on the "submit observations" tab at the top of the homepage - and Thank You!

Events and Happenings:

Join us TONIGHT, for an awesome discussion about weather and climate by Nat'l Weather Service guru Kerry Jones!  6pm at Taos Mesa Brewing's Mothership - come have a beer and help support the Taos Avalanche Center!  Event is free and open to all ages.

Many of you have been asking and we are going to be teaching a Level 1 avalanche class Friday March 31st - Sunday April 2nd.  For more information please email Andy or Graham at andy@taosavalanchecenter.org or graham@taosavalanchecenter.org

With high pressure continuing, it's great time to practice your avalanche beacon skills with our new weekly beacon practice problem at TSV!

 

 

recent observations

On Tuesday my partner and I returned to a familiar area of E aspects around 11,000 to monitor the changes with yet another night without a deep freeze.  Morning corn skiing was good, but the window was even shorter than Monday's.  Surface melting occured almost a full hour earlier than the previous day, and the snowpack was wet much deeper in a similar area.  Buried facets in the top 2+/- feet of the snowpack were wet, and where sitting on a crust, gave us continued cause for concern as the day heated up.  We carefully exited the variable lower elevation slopes by 10:30am, crashing through to ground in some areas - indicating a fully isothermal snowpack at low elevations.  Only true north facing mid and high elevation slopes were still holding cold, dry snow.

Monday brought warm temps and direct sun, which continue to shrink our snowpack.  We toured around the Williams Lake drainage to find good mid-morning corn, which deteriorated quickly - see video from 11am.  Shady areas were holding dry snow just below the surface, but as the sun angle increases by the day, these areas are getting scarse.  Snowpits revealed a great deal of spatial variability, mostly aspect dependent.  We are still finding buried faceted crusts (see pic below), which may provide pooling opportunities for free water as it penetrates down - an unstable situation.

This weekend was downright hot for March in the mountains!  On an east aspect above treeline we were sinking in to our knees at 10 AM.  Things warmed up quickly and there were reports of small natural loose wet avalanches.  There was also a report of a human triggered loose wet avalanche the stepped down 3' on a NE aspect near treeline (see pic below). The last few days have felt the warmest of this slew of spring days, with our high sun angle impacting most slopes except for true north aspects above treeline. We're finding water penetrating deeper into our snowpack with each passing day.  Cold snow can still be found in many areas of our snowpack near and above treeline.    

pic; Erna the dog search training in debris from a human triggered wet slab from Sat.  ENE aspect.

 

 

pic below: "gutless" wet snow near rocks - crashing through by 10am

Pic; The cold coffee test on a SE Aspect around 12,000' from Friday.  Cold snow was found 25cm down from the snow surface.  Lot's of crusts where water can pool. Notice how it travels downhill on these crusts.  At higher elevations where we have several crusts the water pools and eventually makes it through on the path of least resistance.

 

 

CURRENT CONDITIONS Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 32.4 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 45.8 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 18 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 45 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 76.2 inches
weather

Today should mark the beginning of a change in our stubborn weather pattern.  This morning will start mostly sunny and calm before building SW winds arrive this evening, accompanied by some cloud cover.  High's look to be in the 40s and 50s again today, with overnight lows hovering around freezing - but not below.  Thursday should bring some scattered snow and rain showers to the mountains, although freezing levels look to drop between 6-7K feet Thursday night, with accumulations possible through Friday.

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Wednesday Wednesday Night Thursday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy with isolated rain and snow showers likely.
Temperatures: high to 58 deg. F. low to 36 deg. F. high to 54 deg. F.
Wind direction: SW SW SW
Wind speed: 10-20 5-15 10-25
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. up to 1" in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Wednesday Wednesday Night Thursday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy with isolated snow showers and building winds in the afternoon.
Temperatures: high 46 deg. F. low to 32 deg. F. high 40 deg. F.
Wind direction: SW SW SW
Wind speed: 10-20 15-20 15-30
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. up to 1" in.
Disclaimer

This advisory applies only to backcountry areas outside established ski area boundaries, Click here for a map of the area. . This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. This advisory expires 24 hours after the posted time unless otherwise noted. The information in this advisory is provided by the Taos Avalanche Center who is solely responsible for its content.