Blog: Those Who Cannot Remember the Past...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Hardesty

The Alta Guard station in upper Little Cottonwood Canyon has snow records from November through April since the 1944/1945 winter. The numbers can be found here.  Average annual snowfall is 497".

Since 1944/1945, the Alta Guard has recorded 11 winters when the total snowfall from November and December did not crest the 100" mark.  1976/1977 easily stands out as the leanest early winter with a grand total of 30.5".  It's not lost on the Utah powder hounds that three of those sub-par early seasons have occurred since the winter of 2009/2010.  We just ticked off a fourth.  This winter, the Alta Guard recorded 15" in November and just 43" in December.  It's worth noting that none of the eleven dry early season winters came roaring back to equal or exceed the 497" annual average. 

George Santayana -  "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Yogi Berra -  "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it."



In the past 20 years, Utah has suffered 67 avalanche related fatalities, an average of 3.35 per year.  In the last decade, we have suffered 28 avalanche-related fatalities, an average of 2.8 per year.  Last season, 2016/2017, we had none.  It's interesting to note that in the past decade, the three sub-par early winter seasons (09/10, 11/12, 13/14) finished with well-above numbers of avalanche fatalities. 

Winter 09/10 - 4 fatalities

Winter 11/12 - 5 fatalities

Winter 13/14 - 3 fatalities

The arrows denote the three winters in the past decade that snow totals from November and December failed to reach 100".  

Of those three subpar winters over the past decade, 10 of 12 of those avalanche fatalities involved a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, faceted grains, or depth hoar).  It's generally understood that a thin snowpack is a weak and potentially unstable snowpack (weak and full of persistent weak layers).  

Which brings us back to the philosopher and poet George Santayana and the early winter of 2017/2018.

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