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How is the avalanche bulletin produced?

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The avalanche bulletin is created not at the push of a button, but through teamwork. A duty roster assigns the task of producing the bulletin to alternating groups of three of the eight forecasters in the team. In order to produce a reliable avalanche bulletin, they analyse and interpret a wealth of data and information. The work calls for both expert knowledge and experience.

Summary of key points:

  • Avalanche bulletin: Issued by the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, the bulletin forecasts the avalanche danger in the Swiss Alps and the Jura. It is published once or twice a day in wintertime (at 8 am and 5 pm) and as necessary during the summer. In the winter it consists of a zoomable hazard map with hazard descriptions, as well as an appraisal of the snowpack and weather.
  • Data analysis: The forecasters on duty analyse the available measured data, observations and assessments in order to evaluate the current snow and weather situation. For the forecast, they also use weather and snow models.
  • The team: There are eight avalanche forecasters working for the SLF. The avalanche bulletin is produced by three of them in turn. The roles within the group of three are “newcomer”, “principal” and “substitute”. When the roster changes, the “newcomer” becomes the “principal”, the “principal” becomes the “substitute”, and the “substitute” drops out of the group on duty. Rotating the forecasters in this way ensures that knowledge concerning recent changes in the snow and avalanche situation is retained and passed on to each group in turn.
  • Briefing: At the daily 3 pm briefing, the principal presents the results of his or her analysis. The assessments of the other forecasters are then compared and discussed.
  • Software: Special software is needed to produce the avalanche bulletin. The relevant applications are developed by the SLF.
  • Distribution channels: The avalanche bulletin is published on the internet and the White Risk app, the Swiss Natural Hazards Portal, as well as on the radio, by way of social media, on television, and in newspapers.
  • Mission and funding: The SLF has been responsible for avalanche warning on behalf of the federal government since 1945. While for many years part of the avalanche warning was financed by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), as of 1.1.21 full funding will be provided by the ETH Domain.