"In addition to our measurements with the SnowMicroPen, which will provide detailed microstructural information about the snowpack, we are also using a 'quantified loaded column test,' allowing us to measure the strength between layers of snow," Birkeland explains. "This is critical for avalanche prediction, because the large amounts of data we obtain should give us an indication of how a snowpack evolves and how avalanches release."
"Not only by looking at where a weak layer is, but how it changes day-to-day, will help us structurally and geographically in being more predictive," Hansen says. "We have figured out what precise measurements within the snowpack will produce the knowledge we need to assess the geography of snow strength and stability."
Beyond the basic knowledge the benefit of science, Hansen's group hopes to provide relevant insights in avalanche forecasting, protection of life and property, mitigation, and education for avalanche professionals, and for people who live, work, play and travel within mountain environments.