An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Michael Town, Upper School science and engineering teacher

We’ve reached week three of the Lakeside Summer Research Institute (LSRI), and students are in the home stretch. Each student researched something slightly different, with focuses on avalanche-related science or avalanche-related safety practices. Each project required a distinct approach, and so led to different learning outcomes. It was a pleasure to coach these motivated and talented students through an authentic scientific process. Below I share a brief summary of each student project. Follow the links to read their findings and reflections.

Sid H. ’20 unpacked a complex model of snow originally developed in Davos, Switzerland. It took him two weeks to get the software, SNOWPACK, to even ingest data and run. He has since run it on a deftly compiled data set for Paradise, Mount Rainier for the 2017-2018 snow season. It’s the first time to my knowledge that anyone has run SNOWPACK on a PNW data set. Read his abstract to see how this model developed for the Swiss Alps compares to avalanche forecasts from the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) for the southwest Cascades.

William S. ’21 developed a Python-based program that converts avalanche forecasts from NWAC into a visualization of the near-surface snow. Forecasters and backcountry travelers could use his tool as a way to translate NWAC’s narrative forecast into what a backcountry traveler observes in the snow as part of their routine in situ forecast confirmation. I plan to use his tool to help teach avalanche science this next school year!

Vidisha G. ’20 cleaned and extended an avalanche fatality data set originally compiled by students of the Advanced Science: Applications and Engineering class. The data set is based on publicly available time series and fatality reports. With her slightly longer time series, she refined some prior conclusions, as well as investigated new trends and patterns. Her work hits at the heart of many avalanche studies: how, when, and why do people fall victim to avalanches? She shares some preliminary answers in her blog.

This week, in the final stage, students compile their results into posters. We will present their results this October at the 2018 Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop, a workshop designed for both professionals and enthusiasts hosted by NWAC.