Heavy Snow Accumulation Threatens Switzerland With Its Highest Avalanche Threat in Fifty Years

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Image: Screen capture from NBC News video of April 1 avalanche in Zermatt, Switzerland. 

Snow Brains is reporting that the heavy accumulation of snow in Switzerland this season is putting the country at the greatest risk of large, deadly avalanches it has experienced in 50 years. Per Snow Brains:

A comparison of snowfalls from 2023/24 with snowfalls in 1974/75 — almost 50 years ago — by the Swiss Avalanche Institute (SLF) has shown that snowfalls in those two seasons have been very similar. In early April 1975, several avalanches across the eastern Alps in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria went down, killing more than 40 people, both on the mountain as well as in villages. Entire mountain villages were obliterated, and several centuries-old houses were destroyed. It was the deadliest April since record-keeping began in Europe. The 1974/74 season is considered one of the big ‘avalanche winters,’ the most recent avalanche winter was 1998/99, which saw 1,550 avalanches in Switzerland alone.

Switzerland and Austria have already experienced a number of avalanches this winter, although the season has not been as deadly as the 1975/1975 season due to improved detection and prevention measures and differences in where the snow has accumulated. However, “the amount of snow that fell in such a short window is eerily similar: then, as now, 230 to 270 centimeters (91-106 inches) of fresh snow fell within just six days.” Both seasons had a colder than usual Aprils.

Christoph Marty created a graph (seen below) comparing the snow depth in Switzerland at altitudes between 2,250 and 2,750 meters (7,382 and 9,022 feet) in the last 50 years, which shows both seasons “were outliers above the median value,” for the season as a whole and April in particular.

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