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How Climate Change May Influence Deadly Avalanches


Avalanche Area sign in Loveland Pass, Colorado. Credit: Getty Images Big dumps of powder snow are a precious gift in the best of times around the West, where 40 or 50 feet can fall during a winter, forming frozen mountain water towers that slowly melt and sustain the region through hot, dry summers with life-giving water.

When the snow falls faster than the mountains can hold it, though, big storms can also be deadly. During the first week of February, avalanches killed 14 people across the United States, the highest weekly avalanche death toll in more than 100 years. Halfway through the season, 31 people have died across the nation this winter —more than the annual average of 27 deaths.

This week the danger zone shifted from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Northwest, where an atmospheric river has prompted avalanche experts to hoist red flag danger warnings for life-threatening snow slides in mountain regions from Seattle to Juneau. The series of wet storms slopping ashore could deliver a lethal mix of rain and snow in a region where global warming is expected to increase certain types of avalanche risks. Advertisement Some of the climate factors contributing to this year’s dangerous […]

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