GIS-based modelling of rock-ice avalanches from Alpine permafrost areas

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Abstract

Changing permafrost conditions caused by present atmospheric warming are expected to affect the stability of steep rock walls in high mountain areas. The possible increase in periglacial slope instabilities and the especially long potential run-out distances in glacial environments require more awareness about the kind of events as well as robust models to foresee areas affected and distances reached. A geographic information system-based flow-routing model is introduced for modelling rock-ice avalanches on a regional scale. The model application to three major historical events in the European Alps shows the basic use for simulating such events for first-order assessments. By designating the path of steepest descent while allowing lateral spreading from the fall track up to 45, general flow patterns as well as changes in the direction of progression are well reproduced. The run-out distances are determined using empirically based models and suit well the case studies presented.

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