Government of Canada funds research in support of avalanche prevention
January 19, 2023
Activities like skiing, hiking, and snowmobiling are an important part of the winter season in Canada, but with new technologies, trends, and easier access to more remote parts of the backcountry, Canadians could find themselves in areas that are at higher risk of an avalanche.
Today, ahead of Avalanche Awareness Days, the Honourable Bill Blair, President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness announced $431,600 in funding for the Université de Sherbrooke.
The funding, from Public Safety Canada’s Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund (SARNIF), will support research aimed at improving Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Canadian Precipitation Analysis (CaPA) system’s snowfall estimations in mountain regions. These estimates support many groups, including avalanche hazard safety stakeholders, search and rescue organizations, and public avalanche warning services.
The project team will work with ECCC, Parks Canada, Avalanche Canada, Simon Fraser University, the Canadian avalanche community, and provincial governments, to upgrade CaPA by adjusting its algorithm and adding additional snowfall information to better support avalanche hazard assessments.
Avalanches can be triggered by natural events or human activity, and thousands occur annually in Canada across most regions. The enhanced tracking of precipitation in mountain areas, supported by this funding, will help to prevent injuries and deaths by improving monitoring of snow cover stability in mountainous areas.
“The best search and rescue operations are the ones that never happen. This research project is an investment in prevention and will provide Canadians with better information when they venture into Canada’s backcountry. Ahead of Avalanche Awareness Days, I would like to thank all of the search and rescue personnel and awareness groups like Avalanche Canada that work to keep Canadians safe and informed as they enjoy the outdoors this winter.”
- The Honourable Bill Blair, President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness
“Environment and Climate Change Canada has a wealth of data and modelling expertise related to precipitation that will be a great help to this initiative. By putting all that science to work, through enhanced risk assessment and avalanche predictions, we can better protect the safety of Canadians.”
- The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“The reputation of the Université de Sherbrooke is well established and it is one of the prides of the Eastern Townships. It is a pillar of our community and we can be proud of the high-level researchers it attracts. This research project, led by Professor Alexandre Langlois of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, will be extremely valuable in increasing our knowledge of avalanche hazards to improve the safety of Canadians and tourists who enjoy outdoor activities in the mountains.”
- Élisabeth Brière, Member of Parliament for Sherbrooke
“The evolution of geomatics tools now allows for spatial-temporal monitoring of mountain snow conditions. Such operational monitoring will enable public safety authorities to improve the accuracy and spatial coverage of stability simulations in a territory increasingly frequented by mountain enthusiasts.”
- Alexandre Langlois, Professor, Department of Applied Geomatics, Faculty of Literature and Social Sciences, Université de Sherbrooke
“As Canada’s national public avalanche safety organization, Avalanche Canada strives to prevent avalanche incidents by providing information and education. We issue daily public avalanche forecasts throughout the winter season to help recreationists make informed decisions. The data from this Université de Sherbrooke project will enable us to improve the accuracy of our snowpack models and ultimately our avalanche forecasts, particularly for data-sparse areas. This work will directly impact public avalanche safety and help recreationists to enjoy Canada’s winter backcountry and stay safe from avalanches. We’re honoured to be a part of it.”
- Gilles Valade, Executive Director, Avalanche Canada
The Canadian Precipitation Analysis (CaPA) system was developed and is supported by ECCC, and provides estimates of 6- and 24-hour precipitation amounts all over Canada. It combines information from numerical weather prediction systems, radars and precipitation gauges to obtain the best estimation of the precipitation field.
Obtaining an accurate estimate of snowfall in mountainous regions is a challenge because precipitation can vary within one region and the scarcity of measurement networks and topography.
The project targets the avalanche hazard safety community across Canada, including the research community, the industrial and commercial avalanche safety operations and the public avalanche warning services.
The enhanced system will be tested in collaboration with the applied avalanche risk management research group at Simon Fraser University (BC).
Avalanche Awareness Days, an initiative of Avalanche Canada, is a celebration of our winter heritage, an opportunity to learn more about our winter environment, and a way to build awareness of backcountry safety.
In 2019, the Government of Canada announced $25 million to support Avalanche Canada’s long-term sustainability and expand the size and scope of Avalanche Canada’s safety program to new areas, including Northern British Columbia, parts of Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Yukon.
Joanna Monique Kanga Bissila
Office of the President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness
Public Safety Canada
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