Sierra Avalanche Center, Ben Hatchet, Brandon Schwartz discussed on Morning Edition

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Past eight it's morning edition on weedy. I'm Brian watt. It's been a big year for snow in the Sierra Nevada range records have fallen along with the snow. We've seen reports of fifty feet of snow or more on mammoth mountain in the central Sierra. And in the resort town of mammoth lakes. Some people have literally had to tunnel out of their homes. This is the time of year when the snowpack is typically at its peak and tomorrow when surveyors do their monthly manual survey. They're likely to find a snow pack at about one hundred sixty percent of the average we've called up Ben hatchet in atmospheric scientist at the western regional climate center in Reno and Ben in a word or two. How would you describe the snowfall this year, absolutely fantastic and not just for skiers? But also for anyone who uses water in California. All right. So the water supply loves it. But what is it about the storms that have come in this year that has created so much snow and so much water in the snow? Well, we've had very consistent snowfall and the storms that have been bringing the snowfall have been somewhat colder than average. And so we've seen snow levels bringing snow down to one or two thousand feet. Quite frequently. We've even seen snow in the city itself, San Francisco, and the foothills there close to sea level, which is pretty novel and rare, and so we cumulated a lot of snow at the higher elevations at the middle and even down in the foothills. So we have a lot of water stored in our snowpack right now. All right. So do we ever reach a point where we have too much snow is definitely possible because we have a very nice state of our reservoir water levels right now or at about eighty percent full and running about one hundred and eleven percent of the historic average for the date, and we have a lot of snow stored in our natural snowpack reservoir. So if we have a warmer than average spring or has some very warm spring storms that accelerate the melting we might see some that water coming down a little bit early, and that could create some challenges for the water management community because our reservoirs are so full right now and those in some of these communities that have been receiving heavy snowfall like Manasota springs and Myers. People have been tirelessly shoveling out of their homes or businesses. We've seen overuse injuries from too much shoveling. I think the chiropractors are going to be very busy this spring and summer. Oh my goodness. Right. Well, I'm sorry to hear that. Everyone shovel safely shovel safely. Yes. Stretch then hatchet of the western regional climate center in Reno. Thank you very much. Thank you very much for having me on a much more serious note. All the snow we've received this year has also meant a heavy year across the west for avalanches. Especially in the rocky mountains avalanches there have triggered evacuation orders in almost twenty five people have died. That's a lot of people. But it's pretty typical for a heavy snow year. Unfortunately, science editor Danielle Benton has been looking into the state of avalanche science. It's an old problem. But the full solution still eludes us she started with a call to the Sierra avalanche center. Good morning. Sierra with the avalanche forecasts for when if you're heading into the Lake Tahoe back country during winter and early spring. The Sierra avalanche center is a good place to start bottom line. Considerable avalanche tangible exist all of Asians to win. Slab storm slot and loose wet islands problems. Human triggered avalanches likely with natural triggered avalanches possible recording. Forecasts offer about five minutes of info on conditions and where it's riskiest. Everything's available online too. It's the product of lead forecaster Brandon Schwartz and his colleagues who start studying the snow wants the first ball of the season hits the ground. And we tracked that snowfall. We look at how those snow crystals change on the ground, and as they change throughout winter each snowfall creates new layers in the snow pack a relatively weak layer of snow under a stronger one on a slope of thirty degrees are more. That's the recipe for an avalanche. Though, we're looking to see what it's gonna take to make those weak layers fail and trying to figure out what is that gonna be perhaps surprisingly Schwartz and his colleagues do not use computer models. They're forecasting. No one has yet developed a computer model that can accurately predict the complexities of an avalanche one area of science that he says has advanced recently is the physics of how snow fractures and releases or start sliding, which is important for modelling, Kara Burke Lind is one of the researchers studying this fracturing he directs the national avalanche center in bozeman Montana. He says even snow that looks the same can vary widely across a slope. There's areas that are going to be center areas that are going to be sicker. The weekly is going to be a little bit weaker in one spot and a little bit stronger another spot that means in some places, you might trigger an avalanche just by skiing across it. But other.

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