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WeatherBlog 3/2012 | Review of avalanche winter 2011/12

Review of the avalanche winter 2011/12

by Lea Hartl • 12/05/2012
The WeatherBlog is currently located in an area of the world, somewhere between so-called Styria and so-called Carinthia, where there is only sometimes and even then only shaky, minute-by-minute free Internet. As the weather forecast by looking out of the window only works to a limited extent, we leave the current events, if they are relevant in terms of powder, to our colleague the Oracle.

The WeatherBlog is currently located in an area of the world, somewhere between so-called Styria and so-called Carinthia, where there is only sometimes, and even then only shaky, minute-by-minute internet. As the weather forecast by looking out of the window only works to a limited extent, we leave the current events, if they are relevant in terms of powder, to our colleague the Oracle. Instead, we take a look at the 2011/12 season report of the Austrian avalanche warning services (which we happen to have with us in offline form) and review the past season using some statistics:
In total, 235 avalanche accidents were reported in Austria in the 2011/12 season, in which 298 people were involved. Of these, 57 were injured and 18 lost their lives. Tyrol is the sad leader with 10 fatalities, followed by Salzburg and Styria as well as Vorarlberg and Carinthia. There were 19 fatalities in Switzerland, 13 in France, 7 in Italy and one in Germany. For Austria, these accident figures correspond roughly to the average of the last 20 years. In the previous year (2010/11), there were significantly fewer fatal avalanche accidents in Austria with 126 registered accidents and 3 fatalities. In Switzerland, Italy and France, on the other hand, there were more incidents in winter 2010/11 than in the 2011/12 season. This is attributed to the fact that winter 2010/11 was particularly snow-poor in Austria. Most accidents last winter occurred in the weeks around the turn of the year and in the second half of February. February 16 was a particularly accident-prone day, with a total of 21 accidents reported in Austria involving 47 people. The snowpack structure was largely very unfavorable at this time, as snow-covered surface snow was covered by drifting snow that was prone to disruption. As hardly anyone will have failed to notice, sliding snow avalanches were one of the most important topics of the past winter throughout the Northern Alps. The foundations for the sliding snow problem were laid in the very warm, very dry November. This was followed by a lot of fresh snow in December, again followed by rain up to high altitudes. As you can read again and again in the situation reports, sliding snow avalanches are very difficult to predict and can occur at any time of day, largely regardless of the air temperature. Fortunately, most of the sliding snow avalanches did not involve any people, but they have encouraged the avalanche warning services to push ahead with research in this area. In Bavaria, for example, it was observed that the probability of sliding snow avalanches increases significantly from a water content of 7% in the snow layer close to the ground. From next week, hopefully with usable internet access again, until then hopefully a bit of north-westerly traffic jam and continued wintry weather. All figures are taken from the seasonal report of the avalanche warning services.

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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