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Slope instabilities in perennially frozen and glacierised rock walls: analysis and modelling

English title Slope instabilities in perennially frozen and glacierised rock walls: analysis and modelling
Applicant Haeberli Wilfried
Number 111967
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Hydrology, Limnology, Glaciology
Start/End 01.07.2006 - 31.12.2009
Approved amount 190'895.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Hydrology, Limnology, Glaciology

Keywords (11)

slope instabilities; periglacial rock fall; rock/ice avalanches; geology; glacier retreat; permafrost degradation; detachment zones; natural hazards; permafrost; high-mountain areas; climate change effects

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Steep rock walls in high-mountain areas are often characterized by the presence of hanging glaciers and firn fields, covering extensive parts of the rock wall, and permafrost occurrence. Changes in surface and sub-surface ice conditions caused by atmospheric warming have a strong influence on the stability of such rock walls, especially in combination with unfavourable geological and geomechanical conditions of the rock.Recent rock falls and also ice avalanches in the European Alps and other high-mountain regions document the severe hazard potential related to such slope instabilities. The general tendency in high-mountain areas with a scenario of accelerated future warming could be a widespread reduction in stability of formerly glacierised and perennially frozen slopes and a marked shifting of hazard zones with considerable changes in the involved processes.The primary objective of this project is the investigation of the geological, geomechanical and glaciological disposition factors and involved processes controlling the stability of high-mountain rock walls, especially in view of ongoing climatic change. To this aim, data on past periglacial rock fall events in the European and particularly in the Swiss Alps will be collected and analysed in order to build a basis for subsequent modelling. In a local-scale approach, detachment zones of past rock falls will be investigated based on the analysis of digital elevation models in a GIS (Geographic Information System), analyses of aerial and terrestrial photos, field investigation and different monitoring methods.These analyses will help on the assessment of the critical disposition factors and related processes of slope failures. A regional-scale modelling approach intends to identify high-mountain rock walls potentially prone to slope failures in the Swiss Alps and adjacent parts of the Italian and French Alps by using GIS technology. The model approach is based on the relevant disposition factors for slope instabilities evaluated in the local-scale analysis and a corresponding weighting scheme. The different data collection and monitoring techniques used during this project will be evaluated in order to define an appropriate monitoring concept for steep high-mountain rock walls, an important issue for applications in practice.The project is expected to provide an integral assessment of the most relevant disposition factors for slope instabilities in perennially frozen and glacierised steep rock walls and, thus, advance corresponding process understanding. It will lead to a realistic modelling approach which will help finding sites in the Swiss Alps with especially critical combinations of disposition factors. The modelling tools will also be beneficial for the assessment of practical case studies.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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