children free of snow, people sitting in the snow and the avalanche danger is immense: Due to continuous snowfall, some counties had to declare a disaster. In Bavaria, Switzerland and Austria the roads are no longer part passable, the trees break under the masses of Snow, schools have had to close.

winter vacation and holidaymakers have an increasing avalanche danger. The runs were often locked, it is the second-highest danger level. The avalanche forecaster Thomas Stucki explains what equipment you need, in order to save someone who was buried in the snow.

TIME ONLINE: Recently, it has been in the Austrian Alps, the second highest avalanche warning level. What is it and how many stages are there?

Thomas Stucki: there are a Total of five levels of danger. They indicate how critical the avalanche situation in certain regions can be. The higher the value, the greater the risk of avalanches to trigger. The lower three levels depend mainly on winter sports, which are outside the secured ski slopes. And the last two to the authorities. As it has stormed in the last few days of heavy snowfall, and in addition, there is an increased avalanche danger.

TIME ONLINE: last year, an increased avalanche danger in the Alps prevailed. Would you say that the avalanche danger has increased?

Stucki: January 2018 was exceptional. At times, there was in some areas, the highest warning level, and that is very rare in the middle so about every 5 to 10 years. In the winters, before that it was different: It was snowing very late, and an increase in the number of Large snowfalls. The fact that now, once again, Big snowfalls occur frequently, but no Trend can be derived.

TIME ONLINE: there Is an avalanche warning signs?

Thomas Stucki is the leader of the group avalanche warning at the WSL Institute for snow and avalanche research in Switzerland. © Institute for snow and avalanche research

Stucki: There are so-called alarm signs, such as, for example, Wummgeräusche. This is what happens when a weak layer collapses. Already disposed of avalanches, a sign of alarm. Snow that was gone with the wind, so snow Driving is also an indication of increased risk, if including a weak layer – the snowdrift should be avoided.

TIME ONLINE: What is a weak layer?

Stucki: This is a layer, in which the individual snow crystals only have a weak connection. You can think of this like a house of cards: the top increases the pressure, it breaks at some point and the cards will fly in a mess. The weak layer is broken, the overlying layers as the avalanche. Such avalanches are described as slab avalanches.

avalanche types, The main avalanche types

snow Board avalanche – A cohesive, bonded layer of snow slips of a hillside, underlying snow layers. Prerequisite a weak layer, which is no longer able to carry the overlying. Snow avalanches the avalanches that kill the most people. More than 90 percent of avalanche victims trigger the avalanche themselves.

loose snow avalanches – they owe their name to the fact that they consist of snow that is not yet bound to a firmer layer, often so fresh, or dry powdery snow or wet snow. An avalanche rolled off the cliff, she pulls more and more snow.

glide-snow avalanches – in This case the whole snow slips blanket the slope. Prerequisite for a smooth surface, such as, for example, an area of grass or a rock, the blanket of Snow down can slip.

you can find More information on the website of the Swiss avalanche research Institute SLF.

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