Modelling geomorphological hazards to assess the vulnerability of alpine infrastructure: The example of the Großglockner-Pasterze area, Austria

Katharina Kern*, Gerhard Lieb, Gernot Seier, Andreas Kellerer-Pirklbauer-Eulenstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The vulnerability studies of human infrastructure in high-mountain areas influenced by geomorphological hazards in a changing climate are a rather young research field. Especially in high-alpine regions vulnerability maps are often not available, particularly regarding hiking trails or climbing routes. In this paper we present a heuristic approach to create vulnerability maps for Alpine trails
and routes in the Großglockner-Pasterze area (47°05’N, 12°42’E), an high-mountain area ranging from about 2000-3798 m a.s.l..
Therefore, the hazard potential that arises from gravitational mass-movements (rock falls, debris falls, other denudative processes)
has been modelled in a two step approach. In the first step, the potential source areas were detected using a Digital Elevation Model combined with different further sources of information such as a geological map and orthophotos. Based on the estimation of the volume of the mobilizable substrate – which largely depends on the active layer thickness of permafrost - the second step was
carried out by calculating transport paths and dispersal of the downward-moving material. The process model is based on a mass-conserving multiple direction flow propagation algorithm. Both disposition and process model were set up for the current environmental conditions (2010) and for a future scenario (2030) that is driven by a moderate regional climate scenario. Based on the as-
sessment of these processes, susceptibility maps were generated. In a final step, vulnerability maps were created by combining the susceptibility maps with the alpine infrastructure. Considering the length of the trails, 5.5 % are classified in higher hazard classes in 2030 compared to 2010. The presented maps display all known major vulnerable trail and route sections in the study area pro-
perly. Furthermore, the evaluation of the maps by local and regional authority experts showed satisfactory results. However, future adaptions of both models – disposition as well as process model – are desirable, especially by the inclusion of better input data based on more empirical information on the processes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-127
JournalAustrian Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Fields of Expertise

  • Information, Communication & Computing

Treatment code (Nähere Zuordnung)

  • Basic - Fundamental (Grundlagenforschung)

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