Monitoring Avalanche Conditions: Search and Rescue with Kestrel Weather Instruments

Monitoring Avalanche Conditions: Search and Rescue with Kestrel Weather Instruments

While an avalanche is something that many of us only see in the movies, they're very real to rescue personnel around the world.  Monitoring avalanche conditions can prevent major injury and even save lives. With Kestrel weather monitoring, search and rescue teams, as well as winter sports enthusiasts, can effectively monitor avalanche conditions for safety.

Avalanche Awareness

One of the best techniques in preparing for an avalanche is being aware of the environment. Avalanches are the result of gravity pulling snow downhill which exceeds the strength of the snow cover. For an avalanche to occur, there are several conditions that must be present:

  • A steep slope
  • Snow cover (a layer of snow on the ground)
  • A weak layer in the snow cover
  • A trigger - such as the weather or another environmental factor

In the United States alone, 2,000 avalanches are reported annually. Furthermore, 80% of those avalanches occurred after a major snowstorm. This makes it even more essential to use weather tracking for avalanche conditions.

Traditional Method of Tracking Avalanches

When it comes to monitoring avalanche conditions, the traditional approach is to climb a slope and manually measure the angle and snowpack. However, weather conditions are another major piece of the puzzle for avalanche monitoring.

With the Kestrel 3500 Weather Meter, you can measure and monitor:

  • Temperature
  • Relative humidity
  • Barometric pressure
  • Altitude
  • Wind speed

A combination of elements is used to determine when a possible snowstorm or blizzard is on the horizon. For example, the US National Weather Service determines blizzard conditions as 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower with a wind speed of 35 MPH. Dramatic temperature drops can also signify that snowfall is on the way, even during the summer. This is because the sun's radiation is intensified at higher altitudes.

Once an avalanche occurs, search and rescue might be required to locate survivors. Especially in mountainous areas, this can be incredibly dangerous. The use of a helicopter is often necessary in search and rescue efforts, bringing additional challenges to the crew.

The Impact of Density Altitude on Helicopter Landings

When using a helicopter for search and rescue, temperature and humidity must be considered at high elevations. These variables can impact the performance of the helicopter and success if the search and rescue mission.

First is the consideration that helicopters are not as efficient at high altitudes in comparison to sea level. Density altitude is affected by atmospheric pressure, temperature, and humidity. When the helicopter is operating at high elevation, temperature and humidity become more of a concern. In the worst case scenario, the helicopter's engine can lose power. Density altitude, temperature, humidity, and more can all be measured with the reliable Kestrel 5000 Environmental Meter, to ensure that the helicopter is operating within safe guidelines.

When it comes to takeoff and landing, most pilots prefer to do so into the wind. Not only is wind speed a consideration, but wind direction should also be monitored. The pilot may need to turn the helicopter if the wind changes direction.

Reliable Winter Weather Tracking with Kestrel Meters

When an avalanche strikes and search and rescue is on the way, it pays to have a Kestrel weather tracker on hand. Not only can this weather tracker help predict an impending avalanche, but it can also ensure safer helicopter performance during search and rescue. Trust in the Kestrel weather meter for real-time weather accuracy and tracking.

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