Natural Hazards

, Volume 80, Issue 2, pp 1303–1321 | Cite as

Snow avalanche hazard assessment and risk management in northern Quebec, eastern Canada

  • Daniel Germain
Original Paper


In the northern environments of Quebec (eastern Canada), snow avalanche hazards have been ignored for a long time because no major incident was recorded before the tragedies of Blanc-Sablon (Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River) in 1995 and Kangiqsualujjuaq (Nunavik) in 1999. To enhance risk reduction at these sites, this research on process characteristics describes prone terrain, run-out distance and triggering factors, and prompted efforts (permanent and temporary measures) made to mitigate and prevent future snow avalanche tragedy from short, steep slopes. Considering the high vulnerability of these communities related to the growing population of Nunavik and the lack of knowledge of avalanches on the Lower North Shore, acceptable risk was based on the implementation of a snow avalanche forecasting and warning program over 3 years, the first one in eastern Canada. Community participation and the involvement of the municipal and provincial authorities have enabled the efficient operation of the program and accentuate the sensitivity and resilience of the populations to avalanche hazard and risk, as evidenced by the subsequent identification of avalanche sites by the communities themselves. These case studies demonstrate the importance of adequate and safe land planning, notably in the context of climate change, and particularly for isolated northern communities.


Snow avalanche Risk management Warning system Northern Quebec Lower North Shore Nunavik 



I am grateful to Quebec Ministry of Public Safety, particularly George Beauchemin, Martin Simard, Martine Lapierre and Claude Ferland. Without their assistance and support, the successful implementation of the snow avalanche monitoring program could not have been achieved. I would also like to thank the NGI, particularly Karstein Lied, Ulrik Domaas and Erik Hestness for their support, comments and discussions. The assistance of Craig Lindgard of the Kativik Public Security Department was invaluable during my numerous visits in Nunavik. Also thank you to the mayors and local people of the communities that this work focused on for their kindness, understanding and support throughout the process of risk management.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département de GéographieUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada

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