Montana State University

MSU's avalanche research featured in National Geographic magazines

December 8, 2009 -- MSU News Service


This photo by MSU photographer Kelly Gorham runs in three student magazines published by the National Geographic Society. The photo shows MSU professor Ed Adams and Pat Staron, a doctoral student at MSU, using a thermal imaging camera to check the snow's temperature. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN -- Ed Adams, a Montana State University faculty member who studies avalanches by burying himself inside of them, is featured in three student magazines published by the National Geographic Society. A photo by MSU photographer Kelly Gorham accompanies the article in each magazine.

The article -- adapted for three different age groups -- runs in the November/December issue of National Geographic Explorer (both the Pioneer and Pathfinder editions) and Extreme Explorer. All three are supplemental reading tools for children. Pioneer targets readers in grades two and three. Pathfinder goes to children in grades four through six. Students in grades six through 12 read Extreme Explorer.

Adams, an MSU professor in civil engineering, tells the readers how he and members of his research team sit inside a wooden shed on the Bridger Mountains near Bozeman, then set off explosions that send tons of snow down the mountain.

"The sliding snow hits our shed," Adams writes. "It feels like a freight train. Good thing the shed is bolted to a boulder!"

Some avalanches weigh over 100,000 tons, which is like a herd of 20,000 elephants speeding downhill, according to Adams. He said he and his team study avalanches so they can better predict when one might happen and hopefully save lives. Their tools include electronic sensors and computers. Besides working on the mountain, they conduct research in MSU's Subzero Science and Engineering Research Facility. Adams can make the temperature in the lab drop to 40 below zero. He uses fans and heat lamps to simulate wind and sun.

Gorham's photo shows Adams and Pat Staron, a doctoral student at MSU, using a thermal imaging camera to check the snow's temperature. A photo by Janie Osborne for the New York Times shows Adams and Andrew Slaughter, another MSU doctoral student, setting up experiments in the Subzero Science and Engineering Research Facility in MSU's Cobleigh Hall.

National Geographic Explorer and Extreme Explorer are published seven times during the school year. Explorer (the Pathfinder and Pioneer editions combined) reaches 1.2 million readers. Extreme Explorer reaches 105,000.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu