Hundreds of avalanches in Utah this season, a weak snowpack, or climate change to blame?

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SALT LAKE COUNTY, UTAH (ABC4) – This weekend’s snowfall is anticipated to elevate avalanche danger.

As of Friday night, the avalanche forecast ranged from “considerable” to “high” across the state of Utah.

“We have a house of cards snowpack,” said Craig Gordon of the Utah Avalanche Center. “We still have this very shaky base.”

Since the start of 2020-2021 season, the state of Utah’s had 356 back country avalanches.

That’s according to Nikki Champion, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center.

Champion says the first reported avalanche was on November 9, 2020.

She says “we have an especially weak snowpack. The entire base is really weak facets.”

The most frequent avalanches happening in the Central Wasatch Range.

Sadly, they include last Saturday’s deadly avalanche in Millcreek Canyon where four people died.

“We are seeing more avalanches, and more avalanche deaths specifically this year,” said ABC News Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee.

Earlier this week, Zee talked about the increase of avalanches happening on the Start Here Podcast.

“We just found that within one week, we’ve had more deaths than we’ve seen in a century,” said Zee.

Already this season, 22 people have died. Six were in Utah.

That’s compared to last season, where there were a total of 23 fatalities/ with two from the Beehive State.

“Here’s what I think could be happening, and there are several studies to support this it could come down to a warming climate,” said Zee.

Zee says with more “extremes happening closer together in climate change”, the more extreme the snowstorms mean the possibility of bigger avalanches.

Experts warn that anytime you’re going out in the backcountry to check the avalanche forecast, bring the essential gear and don’t go alone.

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