For the 2012 - 2013 forecasting season, we've implemented several website and forecast improvements.
We've been busy this summer helping NWAC improve their web based avalanche forecasts. We hope these changes will make the forecast information more timely and easier to interpret. What's new?
- The daily avalanche forecast will now be issued at around 6 pm for the following two days. The forecast will now be available overnight and during early morning hours (in the past, the forecast for the current day was not available until late morning or mid-day). Note that there will be NO change in the twice daily mountain weather forecast (still issued around 7:00 am with an update around 1:30 pm).
- As in the past, each forecast zone will include an avalanche danger rose which shows the greatest danger and trend for that zone for the daylight hours of the given day. In addition, the previous text based summary avalanche forecast will be replaced with a graphically based forecast. Each zone forecast will include the most important avalanche concern(s) of the day, as well as icons and textual descriptions for the location (aspect), size and trend of each concern. Detailed written snowpack discussion forecast will follow the graphic display and describe in more detail the expected weather and its impact on the concerns of the day.
- There is a new print functionality for creating a hard copy of a specific zone forecast
- Enhanced mobile phone functionality is being developed, and new smart phone apps are available, but the traditional phone recording is being discontinued.
- As in the past, avalanche watches, warnings and special condition statements will be issued as needed.
GIS Observations Tool
We also made some big improvements to the GIS map on the website this summer, and we are counting on YOU to help us get the most out of it. In addition to the mapped view of the avalanche forecast, the site is now set-up to display field observations made by our users. That's you! If you observe avalanche activity, dig a pit, or note anything else avalanche related while traveling in the backcountry, you can now geo-tag that information directly from your smartphone or from your computer when you get home. Once you do, the observation will be pinned on the map for others to view.
We are hoping that this tool will be a big help to both the NWAC forecasters and users of the website, as it will provide information on a more geographically specific level. But it will only be helpful if YOU enter your observations. To help you out with that, we will be offering two trainings to teach folks how to use the program and what sort of information we are looking for (as cool as they are, this is not the place for your epic pow day photos). Stay tuned to our calendar for class dates.
You may also want to check out this great smartphone ap by Ullr Labs, which is set up to work with the program and facilitate entering snow pit observations.
The GIS-based observation page will also feature information from an FOAC contracted network of professional observers. As a result of FOAC Program Director Scott Schell's efforts, this cadre of paid professional observers will be providing objective information on snowpack structure, stability and avalanche occurrences at specific locations where data is sparse. Plans are being discussed as to how best to identify the professional observations on the map.
Many of these changes are based on feedback we received from the survey we conducted last spring. Thanks to all of you who provided input! We hope we have addressed many of your concerns and will continue to welcome your input as we fine tune these changes. Feel free to email us with your comments!