An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Joshua K. '23

The Lakeside Summer Research Institute (LSRI) is a four-week summer research experience in which students engage in mentored research projects.

The Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) forecasts avalanches for different mountains throughout Washington in order to educate and inform the community about avalanche dangers. To forecast such avalanches, NWAC uses a 1-5 danger rating scale: 1 being low risk, 2 moderate risk, 3 considerable risk, 4 high risk, and 5 extreme risk. As the NWAC’s focus is primarily on creating accurate and informative forecasts throughout the year, they have limited time to look back and analyze how consistent they were with their forecasts. My goal was to create a concise and effective way of formatting the analysis of the data in two ways to allow the consistency of the forecasts to be clear and easy to review.

The first way was an extension of previous work which looked at conveying the total number of shifts in the data. A shift in the data is simply a change in the danger rating from the outlook, which is the danger prediction for 2 days out, to the forecast, the danger prediction for the next day (e.g. if the outlook is LOW and the forecast is MODERATE it would mean a shift on 1 since the danger rating increased by one). The second way incorporated additional detail by visualizing the day to day changes in the forecast such as including the date, location, elevation, and avalanche problem (i.e. the type of snow in the avalanche) for that forecasted day. 

By creating clear ways of conveying the shifts in the data, my work this year added to what had previously been achieved in communicating NWAC’s consistency in their forecasts. Hopefully, the work that I have done will set up a strong foundation for future students to expand upon and ultimately share with NWAC. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience at LSRI and am proud of what I have accomplished.