A major spring storm expected to result in up to 17 millimeters of precipitation and near-gale winds on Tuesday and Wednesday means there is a major risk of avalanches in east Svalbard, and all areas where they might be triggered should be avoided, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) declared in a warning Monday.
The Level-Four risk level (the second highest on NVE’s scale) is comparable to that when major avalanches occurred in recent years in Longyearbyen and other areas with destructive and deadly results.
“An increase in wind and snow will lead to a large amount of wind transported snow,” the warning states. “Avoid all avalanche terrain. Naturally triggered avalanches likely.”
The area is among the most popular for spring snowmobilers, although conditions there are in many parts of Svalbard are increasingly marginal due to mild weather and little snow in recent weeks.
A Level-Three risk level (“considerable”) is forecast Tuesday and Wednesday for Longyearbyen and other parts of Svalbard, with the NVE forecasting “unstable conditions due to high wind slabs in lee areas. Persistent weak layers in the snowpack may also be triggered.”
The weather forecast at Svalbard Airport calls for clear skies and temperatures of minus nine degrees Celsius on Tuesday morning, but heavy precipitation the rest of the day before it starts tapering off early Wednesday. Winds will gradually increase and peak midday Wednesday before diminishing somewhat during the evening.