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Forecasters from Haines and the Yukon work together to build a weather station in the Haines Pass

A Haines skiier heads out into the backcountry. (Abbey Collins)

A new weather station is being developed to collect data for the Haines Pass. The Yukon Avalanche Association recently secured funding from the Yukon Government for the project.

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The association will partner with the Haines Avalanche Center to install the equipment by fall.

Erik Stevens and Jeff Moskowitz founded the Haines Avalanche Center in 2010. The goal was to establish a local avalanche forecast for the public and a platform for people to share data and weather observations.

Since then, Stevens and Moskowitz have been venturing out into the mountains around Haines to collect data on snow conditions for their website’s forecast.

Weather data for this region is sparse. Stevens said that when they first started there were hardly any resources for forecasting.

“Since then, it has grown quite a bit. We now have a SNOTEL station up on Flower Mountain. We have our own weather station that Haines Avalanche Center installed on Mt. Ripinsky. There’s a couple of other new stations that have gone online that provide mountain weather data. And that’s so crucial for us is having that real time weather data from high altitudes, not just the valley floors,” Stevens said.

In the winter, many skiers and snowboarders are eager to ride the slopes in the Haines Pass. There are numerous risks while riding in this region, from avalanches to rapidly changing conditions. Accurate forecasts are crucial, but this popular winter recreation area lacks a weather station.

Stevens said that the Haines Avalanche Center wanted to install a station there, but focused their efforts on Mt. Ripinsky because the pass is located on Canadian land.

Haines locals are not the only ones trying to scope out the conditions for that region. Kylie Campbell is the Interagency Director for the Yukon Avalanche Association. She said that many Yukoners need weather data from the pass as well.

“We want to try to make sure there is as much information for the public, and particularly in such a remote, data-sparse region like Haines Pass. For our community Haines Junction, this weather station is going to be vital whether or not you are even driving on the highway, let alone using the mountains that are accessible from the highway,” Campbell said.

Recently the Yukon Avalanche Association secured funding for a weather station in Haines Pass. The Yukon Government awarded the group $20,000 in Tier 1 Community Development funding. That will cover the cost of materials, installation and maintenance training for volunteers.

Campbell said that she has been working with the British Columbian government on land use issues because the pass is located in B.C. The Haines Avalanche Center and Haines Junction residents have also been working as partners on the project.

“It’s kind of an exciting project because it’s incorporating for us interprovincial and international relations for weather information that has never really existed from this region,” Campbell said.

The Haines Avalanche Center will help choose the location, install the equipment and maintain it over time. The station itself is a 10 to 15 foot-tall tower with instruments to collect data for temperature, humidity, wind, rainfall and snow depth. Stevens says finding a site with the right conditions can be tricky.

“In terms of siting, we’re looking for a nice balance between exposure to the wind so we get good wind data, but not too exposed because then all the snow blows away. We’re trying to find a sheltered spot that’s kind of partially sheltered but still exposed to the wind, and that’s pretty hard to find.”

Right now they are looking at a spot near Glade Peak, also known as Three Guardsman. Once installed, information from the station will be available to the public online in real time.


Source: npr

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