AVALANCHE UPDATE: Mixture of snow, rain and temps up to 5C next week ‘could be good or it could be really bad’


Rapidly rising temperatures expected to reach five degrees Celsius by Tuesday, and a mixture of rain and snow, could help settle avalanche-prone snow in Longyearbyen – or trigger it, one of two experts who surveyed the area last week said Sunday.

“It could be good be good or it could be really bad,” said Odd-Arne Mikkelsen of the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. “It depends on the amount of precipitation, but right now it looks like small amount so that would be good.”

The warm temperates would soften the snow and light precipitation would likely condense the snow from the massive storm that triggered the avalanche Dec. 19 that buried ten homes and killed two people, he said. But a thick layer of heavy snow and ice on top of the snow could result in more snowslides.

Mikkelsen said he is scheduled to return to Longyearbyen on Monday to conduct additional surveys and “we’ll have to wait and see Tuesday when the forecast will be more accurate.”

About 80 people are still unable to return to homes in the vicinity of the avalanche. Mikkelsen said he doesn’t believe other areas evacuated for a couple of days – including Nybyen, initially classified as at high-risk of snowslides – will be endangered by this week’s weather.

“There’s too little snow in mountains,” he said. “There a lot in some corners at the top, but not much snow down the mountain.”

The long-term forecast for Longyearbyen as of 10 a.m. Sunday is for temperatures peaking at five degrees Celsius late Tuesday night, then hovering just above or below freezing through early the following week, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. Steady precipitation is forecast from early Wednesday morning through early Saturday evening, with the heaviest accumulations of about 10 millimeters a day on Wednesday and Thursday.