Mountain Weather

Mountain Weather can be extremely complex, difficult to predict, and highly variable both in space and time. Significant changes in weather parameters (clouds, temperature, winds, and type and rate of precipitation) often occur very rapidly and within very short distances (mesoscale or microscale), as both experience and automated weather stations suggest. These variations can have major impacts on a wide range of human activities, including recreation, transportation, and work. As a result, it is very worthwhile to expand your knowledge of mountain weather to prepare for such changes, help understand the changes, recognize them when they occur. The following preliminary and partial list of weather and mountain weather resources should help facilitate this learning process.

Weather or Mountain Weather Resources 

  • Mountain Weather--the site developed by meteorologist Jim Woodmencey offers a wealth of information about mountain weather, including forecasts, satellite and radar, surface and upper air maps, computer models and many weather links...along with several help sections to aid in map and forecast interpretation.

  • Meteorology Guide--this site from the University of Illinois offers web-based instructional modules utilizing multimedia technology and the dynamic capabilities of the web

  • The American Meteorological Society's DataStreme Atmosphere Program web site offers links to both current weather maps and images as well as educational pages and downloadable pdfs that describe weather map symbols, cloud types and more.

  • The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center has an experimental page that contains an abundance of easily configurable Java script loops of weather parameters, including upper air soundings, Short-Range Ensemble Forecast (SREF) and High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) forecast guidance, SREF Ensemble Plumes and more.

Other Mountain Weather Data Sources:

Avalanche Basics

Avalanches don't happen by accident and most human involvement is a matter of choice, not chance. Most avalanche accidents are caused by slab avalanches which are triggered by the victim or a member of the victim's party. However, any avalanche may cause injury or death and even small slides may be dangerous. Hence, always practice safe route finding skills, be aware of changing conditions, and carry avalanche rescue gear. Learn and apply avalanche terrain analysis and snow stability evaluation techniques to help minimize your risk. Remember that avalanche danger rating levels are only general guidelines. Distinctions between geographic areas, elevations, slope aspect and slope angle are approximate, and transition zones between dangers exist. No matter what the current avalanche danger, there are avalanche-safe areas in the mountains.

Avalanche Tutorials

Although there are no substitutes for taking and really learning about the avalanche triangle (snow, weather and terrain) by taking a multi-day avalanche course, viewing and understanding the basics contained within the excellent short Avalanche Tutorial (developed by the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center) can help start the education process. This tutorial is highly recommended for anyone heading out into the back country. Gaining  knowledge is a powerful tool that can help with route finding and stability evalution...and hopefully help avoid your getting caught by avalanches or otherwise involved in an avalanche accident.

However, despite the best-laid plans, accident involvements still occur far too frequently as recent statistics indicate. In most back country avalanche accident situations, time is critical and how YOU or memebers of your party respond to the incident strongly affects the outcome in this potentially life and death situation.  To this end, the Canadian Avalanche Association has developed an excellent tutorial on helping the aware traveler gain an insight and understanding as to the most appropriate responses in such an event. This Avalanche First Response training program helps answer the very important question: "will you have the skills to save yourself and your friends?"