Friday 27 January 2023

Climate change bringing avalanches to Scotland

Climate change bringing avalanches to Scotland

Scotland is experiencing more avalanches due to climate change.

That’s according to the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS), which revealed that in the mountains avalanches have been occurring far more frequently and closer together in recent months.

An issue has been an influx of different storms which have brought extreme cold, followed by temperatures then being hotter than usual – causing the ice and snow to melt at far quicker rates.

The SAIS has stated that the patterns of avalanches have recently become far less predictable.

Mark Diggins, Coordinator, explains: “I would say what we are experiencing now is really rapid changes from one extreme to the other, both in terms of temperature, wind speed, and in the snow amounts.

“For us putting out forecasts, which are offered for a 24-hour period, the hazard could be considerable when we put it out and then the next day it has all been transformed and it’s a lesser hazard.”

Recent weeks have seen short periods of heavy snowfall over a couple of days, with this snow melting rapidly in the next couple of days.

In some cases, in the space of one night, the hazard level in the six mountains monitored by the SAIS went from “low” to “considerable” and vice versa.

The study also referenced Met Office findings, revealing that the temperatures in January and February at Cairn Gorm – one of the country’s most popular mountains – in the last 30 years have been an average of 2°C higher than the 30 years before that.

Continuing on how it’s become more difficult to monitor avalanches, Mr Diggins added: “What we are seeing generally speaking is the snow line, that was quiet low in the past, is now much higher so we are not seeing those cues that we generally got to start thinking about any avalanche hazard.”

There is more frequency but less ability to predict due to the quickly changing weather patterns impacted by climate change.

Written by

Bruna Pinhoni

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