Journal cover Journal topic
Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 5, 527-554, 2005
© Author(s) 2005. This work is licensed under
the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.
29 Jul 2005
Remote sensing of glacier- and permafrost-related hazards in high mountains: an overview
A. Kääb1, C. Huggel1, L. Fischer1, S. Guex1, F. Paul1, I. Roer2, N. Salzmann1, S. Schlaefli1, K. Schmutz1, D. Schneider1, T. Strozzi3, and Y. Weidmann4 1Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
2Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Germany
3Gamma Remote Sensing, Berne, Switzerland
4University of Applied Sciences, Muttenz, Basel, Switzerland
Abstract. Process interactions and chain reactions, the present shift of cryospheric hazard zones due to atmospheric warming, and the potential far reach of glacier disasters make it necessary to apply modern remote sensing techniques for the assessment of glacier and permafrost hazards in high-mountains. Typically, related hazard source areas are situated in remote regions, often difficult to access for physical and/or political reasons. In this contribution we provide an overview of air- and spaceborne remote sensing methods suitable for glacier and permafrost hazard assessment and disaster management. A number of image classification and change detection techniques support high-mountain hazard studies. Digital terrain models (DTMs), derived from optical stereo data, synthetic aperture radar or laserscanning, represent one of the most important data sets for investigating high-mountain processes. Fusion of satellite stereo-derived DTMs with the DTM from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) is a promising way to combine the advantages of both technologies. Large changes in terrain volume such as from avalanche deposits can indeed be measured even by repeat satellite DTMs. Multitemporal data can be used to derive surface displacements on glaciers, permafrost and landslides. Combining DTMs, results from spectral image classification, and multitemporal data from change detection and displacement measurements significantly improves the detection of hazard potentials. Modelling of hazardous processes based on geographic information systems (GIS) complements the remote sensing analyses towards an integrated assessment of glacier and permafrost hazards in mountains. Major present limitations in the application of remote sensing to glacier and permafrost hazards in mountains are, on the one hand, of technical nature (e.g. combination and fusion of different methods and data; improved understanding of microwave backscatter). On the other hand, better dissemination of remote sensing expertise towards institutions involved in high-mountain hazard assessment and management is needed in order to exploit the large potential of remote sensing in this field.

Citation: Kääb, A., Huggel, C., Fischer, L., Guex, S., Paul, F., Roer, I., Salzmann, N., Schlaefli, S., Schmutz, K., Schneider, D., Strozzi, T., and Weidmann, Y.: Remote sensing of glacier- and permafrost-related hazards in high mountains: an overview, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 5, 527-554,, 2005.
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