THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 24, 2017 @ 6:00 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 23, 2017 @ 6:00 am
Issued by Graham Turnage - Taos Avalanche Center

1. Low

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Above Treeline

2. Moderate

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Near Treeline

2. Moderate

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Below Treeline

Above freezing overnight temps will keep the avalanche danger at MODERATE near and below treeline, while above treeline areas have a LOW danger.  Cooling temps and increasing cloud cover throughout the day should help to begin the healing process within the snowpack, but human triggered loose wet and wet slab avalanches remain possible on isolated slopes.

  • 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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Morning sun will likely begin the melting of the snow surface, allowing for the possibility of human triggered loose wet slides, before afternoon clouds, wind, and cooling temps begin to seize things up.  Another night of no freeze in most mountain locations did not allow for a good set (refreezing) of the snowpack, so for one more day we are suspect of loose wet avalanches near and below treeline.

Avalanche Problem 2: Wet Slab
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The chances of triggering a wet slab avalanche are diminishing as cooling temps and strong winds enter our area.  That said, we had yet another night of no freeze in many mountain locations last night, which leaves us with a wet snowpack again this morning.  The possibility of afternoon rain may increase the chances of triggering a wet slab, as free water undercuts any remaining structure around buried faceted crusts in the top couple feet of the snowpack.  Be suspect of areas where you feel yourself collapsing to the ground, as that is a sure sign of an isothermal and unstable snowpack.

advisory discussion

With changes in the weather come changes in the snowpack.  The recent warm temps and direct high angle sun have left our snowpack a wet mess in many places.  Human triggered loose wet and wet slab avalanches remain possible as we saw yet another night without a solid freeze in the mountains.  This will keep the avalanche danger at MODERATE near and below treeline, while a LOW danger exists above treeline today.  If this storm comes in as rain this afternoon look for the wet slide hazard to rise, as more free water will undermine any remaining structure in our weak, wet snowpack.  Increasing clouds, building winds, and cooling temps today should start to lock things up and decrease the hazard, but this process takes time, and until we get a solid, widespread freeze, it's hard to trust our snowpack in many places.  Careful evaluation of terrain and snowpack is recommended, and let's cross our fingers for a hardy return to winter weather!

We will issue the next advisory on Friday 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:

Thanks to everyone who joined us at Taos Mesa Brewing on Wed night, and THANK YOU KERRY JONES for an awesome presentation on weather and climate - he says it's gonna dump this spring gang!

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

It's always a great time to practice your avalanche beacon skills with our new weekly beacon practice problem at TSV! - we will swith up the problem today (thurs).

 

 

recent observations

Wednesday was another warm, sunny day and provided for some healthy exploring.  My partners and I investigated a variable snowpack in the South Fork drainage and found isothermal, gutless snow at lower elevations and came across debris from a large wet slide which released in the last couple of days (pic below).  This slide looked to have started high in the rocks on a NE aspect, before gouging to the ground mid-path.  The low elevation snowpack is disappearing quickly, making for tricky exits.  Higher elevation slopes were supportable and provided for a few good corn turns mid morning.

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.

Pic; debris from a wet slide observed in the South Fork drainage on Wed.  NE aspect near 9000 ft.

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

 

 

 

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 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 45.9 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 24 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 63 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 74.9 inches
weather

Spring weather is full of changes - today will be a transition day with increasing cloud cover, building winds, and dropping temps.  Highs look to be in the 40s and 50s with strong SW winds gusting as high as 70mph by tonight. We may see some scattered mixed precip (rain) this afternoon but overnight lows in the teens and 20s should allow for incoming moisture to fall as snow, and by tomorrow we should see 3-7inches in the mountains.  Unsettled weather should persist for the next several days.

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Partly cloudy with isolated showers this afternoon. Snow showers likely. Mostly cloudy with isolated snow showers likely.
Temperatures: high to 50 deg. F. low to 25 deg. F. high to 36 deg. F.
Wind direction: SW W NW
Wind speed: 10-25 10-25 10-25
Expected snowfall: .03-.09 rain in. 2-6 in. up to 2 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Partly cloudy with isolated snow showers this afternoon. Snow showers. Mostly cloudy with snow showers likely.
Temperatures: high 38 deg. F. low to 19 deg. F. high 28 deg. F.
Wind direction: SW W NW
Wind speed: 20-30 15-30 15-25
Expected snowfall: 1 in. 3-7 in. 1-2 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.