Avalanche hazard forecasting at Mount Hutt.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The decision making process of avalanche hazard forecasting was studied during the ski season of 1995 at Mount Hutt. The objective was to derive the main contributing factors of avalanche forecasting and then assess the potential of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a tool to assist with the decision making process. A snow distribution model was developed utilising the contributing factors that were identified. Interviews were conducted with the three principle avalanche forecasters from the Mount Hutt Ski Patrol. Each forecaster was presented with a series of storm scenarios, and then asked what information they wanted to know and when they wanted it, while making their avalanche hazard assessment and forecast. The information requested by each forecaster were very similar. However, there was a distinct difference with how each forecaster interpreted the available information. They often used different approaches when assessing snow stability, but ultimately arrived at the same conclusion about the potential avalanche hazard. The key contributing factors identified in this research were wind speed and direction, snowfall intensity, the amount of new snow, and the surface conditions upon which the new snow was being deposited. A GIS model using Grid was developed to assess the spatial distribution of snow during two storm scenarios. The model appeared to work well, given that it was only designed to assess the potential of GIS. The resulting output of the model would have provided the forecasters with a more accurate estimate of snow distribution. Forecasters have to estimate the spatial distribution of snow and its stability, based on experience and know knowledge. GIS has the potential to provide accurate estimates of this distribution, that could ultimately assist conventional avalanche forecasters.