A system for prediction ofavalanche hazard in the windy climate of Iceland

A system for predicting avalanche hazard in the windy climate of Vest-firdir northwest Iceland is presented. The system is based on (a) numerical simulations of the snowpack and evaluation of avalanche hazard due to overloading by the snowmodels SAFRAN-Crocus and MEPRA, and (b) observations of wind speed in the mountains used as a proxy for snowdrift.The system was tested during two winter seasons and correctly predicts 30 out of 35 avalanche days.The 5 missing days feature either large spatial gradients in precipitation or very strong winds a few days before the avalanches, indicating much snowdrift. A comparison of the simulated avalanche hazard and observations of avalanches confirms that snowdrift is of primary importance not only for large avalanches, as already established, but also for small and medium-size avalanches inVest- firdir.The system is a first step towards an objective evaluation of avalanche hazard in Iceland.