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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 4 | Copyright

Special issue: Landslide Prediction & Forecasting

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 905-917, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-15-905-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Review article 24 Apr 2015

Review article | 24 Apr 2015

Monitoring and prediction in early warning systems for rapid mass movements

M. Stähli1, M. Sättele2, C. Huggel3, B. W. McArdell1, P. Lehmann4, A. Van Herwijnen2, A. Berne5, M. Schleiss5,*, A. Ferrari6, A. Kos7,**, D. Or4, and S. M. Springman7 M. Stähli et al.
  • 1Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 2WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos Dorf, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 4Soil and Terrestrial Environmental Physics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 5Environmental Remote Sensing Laboratory, EPF Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 6Soil Mechanics Laboratory, EPF Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 7Institute for Geotechnical Engineering, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • *now at: Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, USA
  • **now at: Terrasense Switzerland Ltd, Werdenberg, Switzerland

Abstract. Rapid mass movements (RMM) pose a substantial risk to people and infrastructure. Reliable and cost-efficient measures have to be taken to reduce this risk. One of these measures includes establishing and advancing the state of practice in the application of early warning systems (EWSs). EWSs have been developed during the past decades and are rapidly increasing. In this paper, we focus on the technical part of EWSs, i.e., the prediction and timely recognition of imminent hazards, as well as on monitoring slopes at risk and released mass movements. Recent innovations in assessing spatial precipitation, monitoring and precursors of the triggering and deformation of RMM offer new opportunities for next-generation EWSs. However, technical advancement can only be transferred into more reliable, operational EWSs with an adequate well-instructed dedicated staff. To this end, an intense dialog between scientists, engineers and those in charge of warning, as well as further experience with new comprehensive prototype systems jointly operated by scientists and practitioners, will be essential.

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This review paper describes the state of the art in monitoring and predicting rapid mass movements for early warning. It further presents recent innovations in observation technologies and modelling to be used in future early warning systems (EWS). Finally, the paper proposes avenues towards successful implementation of next-generation EWS.
This review paper describes the state of the art in monitoring and predicting rapid mass...
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