Characterizing major avalanche episodes in space and time in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in the Catalan Pyrenees
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With the aim of better understanding avalanche risk in the Catalan Pyrenees, the present work focuses on the analysis of major (or destructive) avalanches. For such purpose major avalanche cartography was made by an exhaustive photointerpretation of several flights, winter and summer field surveys and inquiries to local population. Major avalanche events were used to quantify the magnitude of the episodes during which they occurred, and a Major Avalanche Activity Magnitude Index (MAAMI) was developed. This index is based on the number of major avalanches registered and its estimated frequency in a given time period, hence it quantifies the magnitude of a major avalanche episode or winter. Furthermore, it permits a comparison of the magnitude between major avalanche episodes in a given mountain range, or between mountain ranges, and for a long enough period, it should allow analysis of temporal trends. Major episodes from winter 1995/96 to 2013/14 were reconstructed. Their magnitude, frequency and extent were also assessed. During the last 19 winters, the episodes of January 22-23 and February 6-8 in 1996 were those with highest MAAMI values, followed by January 30-31, 2003, January 29, 2006, and January 24-25,2014. To analyze the whole twentieth century, a simplified MAAMI was defined in order to attain the same purpose with a less complete dataset With less accuracy, the same parameters were obtained at winter time resolution throughout the twentieth century. Again, 1995/96 winter had the highest MAAMI value followed by 1971/72, 1974/75 and 1937/38 winter seasons. The analysis of the spatial extent of the different episodes allowed refining the demarcation of nivological regions, and improving our knowledge about the atmospheric patterns that cause major episodes and their climatic interpretation. In some cases, the importance of considering a major avalanche episode as the result of a previous preparatory period, followed by a triggering one was revealed.
CitationOller, P. [et al.]. Characterizing major avalanche episodes in space and time in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in the Catalan Pyrenees. "Cold regions science and technology", 01 Febrer 2015, vol. 110, p. 129-148.