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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 16, issue 10 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 2211-2225, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-16-2211-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 07 Oct 2016

Research article | 07 Oct 2016

Potential slab avalanche release area identification from estimated winter terrain: a multi-scale, fuzzy logic approach

Jochen Veitinger1, Ross Stuart Purves2, and Betty Sovilla1 Jochen Veitinger et al.
  • 1WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. Avalanche hazard assessment requires a very precise estimation of the release area, which still depends, to a large extent, on expert judgement of avalanche specialists. Therefore, a new algorithm for automated identification of potential avalanche release areas was developed. It overcomes some of the limitations of previous tools, which are currently not often applied in hazard mitigation practice. By introducing a multi-scale roughness parameter, fine-scale topography and its attenuation under snow influence is captured. This allows the assessment of snow influence on terrain morphology and, consequently, potential release area size and location. The integration of a wind shelter index enables the user to define release area scenarios as a function of the prevailing wind direction or single storm events. A case study illustrates the practical usefulness of this approach for the definition of release area scenarios under varying snow cover and wind conditions. A validation with historical data demonstrated an improved estimation of avalanche release areas. Our method outperforms a slope-based approach, in particular for more frequent avalanches; however, the application of the algorithm as a forecasting tool remains limited, as snowpack stability is not integrated. Future research activity should therefore focus on the coupling of the algorithm with snowpack conditions.

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Avalanche hazard assessment requires a very precise estimation of the potential starting zone, which nowadays still depends, to a large extent, on expert judgement of avalanches. Therefore, a new algorithm for automated identification of potential avalanche release areas was developed. Potential avalanche release areas can be defined for varying snow accumulation scenarios, improving the automated estimation of release areas, in particular for frequent avalanches.
Avalanche hazard assessment requires a very precise estimation of the potential starting zone,...
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