Mark P. Kumler, Ph.D.
Bryan D. Baker, Ph.D.
Forecasting avalanches is a complex task that the “GIS Server Application for Avalanche Studies” project prototype attempts to address. This server application provides detailed information -- such as name, average activity rate, elevation, and aspect -- on each known avalanche path within this study area. The prototype serves as a tool for forecasters to share their knowledge with other civilians who frequent the study area, as well as other forecasters.
The primary goal of this project was to establish a tool that utilizes historical weather and avalanche activity data to determine areas where avalanches have occurred in the past and are most likely to occur again, based on forecasted weather conditions. The creation of this GIS model to process data and determine focus areas would allow forecasters to spend more time in the field by eliminating land areas of less concern. This type of model would be valuable for forecasters when they are asked to make predictions for unfamiliar regions, such as forecasting for international events like the winter Olympics or foreign countries to support military efforts.
In order to accomplish this, an Arc model was created which allows individuals to enter predicted weather values such as temperature and precipitation. The tool then executes a query on historical information to find other dates with very similar conditions. Upon completion of this query, a secondary query is conducted to determine what avalanche activity occurred on those days. This information is then transferred to a shapefile with the same color scheme as the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s (CAIC) avalanche probability Danger Rose, which is used by forecasters to communicate vii avalanche probability. Avalanche areas are symbolized as green, yellow, or red depending on whether the most similar days had zero, one, or more than one avalanche, respectively. This feature gives forecasters and other individuals access to tools to examine potential avalanche danger without accessing the areas themselves.
Raymer, B. J. (2007). GIS Server Application for Avalanche Studies (Master's thesis, University of Redlands). Retrieved from http://inspire.redlands.edu/gis_gradproj/91