Tuesday, January 11, 2011  
   Volume 81 - Issue 2 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“The main part of this job is working with people, both at their best, and at their worst.”
- Kirk Olchowy  
- Fish & Wildlife Officer   
   

 

 
Researchers from the University of Calgary are currently conducting tests in the Crowsnest Pass and Rogers Pass, in order to determine the effectiveness and accuracy of using infrared cameras in avalanche prediction.
Researchers from the university’s Schulich School of Engineering have spent the last year developing the technology in order to aid backcountry enthusiasts about possible avalanches.
The cameras measure minute temperature fluctuations in packed snow, which is one of the main factors in avalanche creation.
Researchers are looking most closely at melt-freeze crusts, which are formed when layers of snow become wet and freeze, and are then buried by layers of fresh snow.
The more this happens, the less stable the snow bank becomes, and the more likely the possibility of an avalanche.
Of course, there are additional factors which can increase the possibility of an avalanche occurring, such as weather, terrain, type of snow, noise, etc., but researchers are confident that this is a step in the right direction.
Over the past decade, nearly 150 deaths have been recorded in the Southern Canadian Rockies by the Canadian Avalanche Centre, including 12 last season.
While the fatality rate for backcountry skiers has decreased, an increased death toll among snowmobilers has been observed.
As a result, the CAC is encouraging snowmobiling clubs to educate members and enthusiasts through avalanche prevention and education courses.
The Crow Snow Riders will be holding a Back Country Snowmobiling Safety presentation on January 15th at 6 p.m. at the Lions Hall in Blairmore, presented by Jeremy Hanke and Teck Coal.
Admission is $15, or free for Teck employees.
 
In addition to education courses, the CAC has also announced two new tools for backcountry users, an “Avaluator Card”, which evaluates terrain and snow conditions, and the CAC Fieldbook, which provides a systematic approach to avalanche risk management for more experienced backcountry enthusiasts.
The CAC also provides up to date terrain information on their website, using the North American Public Avalanche Danger Scale to assess the likelihood of an avalanche occurring in uncontrolled backcountry areas.
Danger is assessed on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being a low danger rating, and 5 being extreme.
At present, a danger rating of 3, or “considerable”, is issued for the South Rockies and Kananaskis area, meaning “dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route finding and conservative decision making essential.”
At this level, natural avalanches are possible, and human triggered avalanches are likely, and could lead to small avalanches in many areas, large avalanches in specific areas, or very large avalanches in isolated areas.
For current avalanche assessment in various areas, visit www.avalanche.ca/ cac/bulletins/latest.
It could be several years before workers are using infrared cameras to monitor at risk areas, as each camera costs approximately $9,000 to $10,000.
At present, manual thermometers are placed approximately 10 centimetres apart in most areas to search for these temperature differences.
This method is said to have resulted in an imperfect understanding of melt-freeze crusts, whereas the cameras measure temperature fluctuations within millimetres, providing avalanche warning weeks in advance.
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   Volume 81 - Issue 2 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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