It's been a deadly month for people caught in snow: Twin avalanches claimed the lives of at least 19 soldiers stationed in the Kashmir Valley last week. The weekend before, three expert skiers were buried alive by an avalanche near a Washington state ski resort. Globally, more than 150 people die in avalanches each year. What causes an avalanche? How do weather, temperature, steepness of slopes, and other factors help identify the safety of a snowpack? Are avalanches good for wildlife habitat and diversity? And will climate change impact the frequency of these disasters in future?
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Dr. Tim Garrett is an associate professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah, whose research is focused on measurement and modeling of the complex interactions between aerosols, clouds, radiation, dynamics, and climate. This National Science Foundation sponsored researcher runs a laboratory at Alta Ski Area for the study of the development of snow, where he and his team have developed a new camera system for high resolution stereoscopy of snowflakes in freefall.
Dr. Jim Steenburgh is a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah whose research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and concentrates on the weather and climate of the western United States and other mountainous regions. He led the numerical weather prediction team for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and has given invited mountain weather and climate talks to groups across Utah and the western United States.