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Snow avalanche assessment in the Sinaia ski area (Bucegi Mountains, Southern Carpathians) using the dendrogeomorphology method



In view of the damage and hazard they pose to human life and property, snow avalanches are a major natural hazard in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains. Despite the loss of life in recent years, geomorphological understanding of snow avalanches in Romania remains limited. The Sinaia ski area, located in the Bucegi Mountains, is the most important ski resort in the Romanian Carpathians with two distinct centres of skiing activity: the Valea Dorului and Carp Valley. Winter sports such as alpine skiing, freestyle and freeriding have significantly increased in popularity in recent years. The Sinaia ski area comprises both marked and off-piste trails, which make the region attractive to a wide range of skiers. At the same time, there is also an increased probability of hazardous avalanches due to both natural causes and the activity of skiers. In this paper we outline the use of the dendrogeomorphological method to reconstruct past avalanche activity and to assess the magnitude and frequency of avalanches in order to gain a better understanding of this hazard. Using the nearby mountain weather stations of Omu (2505 m) and Sinaia (1500 m), we examine the annual variation in the number of days with snowfall, heavy snowfall and the number of days with snow cover over the past 46 years, together with an assessment of the risk of avalanches. In order to achieve this, we obtained cores and cross sections from 62 trees in the area for dendrogeomorphological analysis. Tree-ring analysis demonstrates a strong correlation between meteorological data, avalanche risk and avalanche activity, when taking topographic parameters and tree distribution patterns into consideration.