Articles | Volume 65, issue 2
30 Jun 2010
 | 30 Jun 2010

Research advances on climate-induced slope instability in glacier and permafrost high-mountain environments

C. Huggel, L. Fischer, D. Schneider, and W. Haeberli

Abstract. High-mountain areas with glacier and permafrost occurrence are temperature sensitive environments. Climatic changes are, thus, likely to have an effect on slope stability. Several recent events have shown that rock and ice avalanches and related hazards can have severe consequences. For hazard analysis, the processes of slope failure and flow dynamics should therefore be better understood. In this article, recent advances in this field are presented, including high-resolution topographic monitoring of a large Alpine high-mountain flank (Monte Rosa) over the past 50 years and laboratory experiments with rotating drums and numerical modelling. This recent research has revealed important insight into the causes and dynamics of slope instabilities and contributes towards a better understanding of the influence of ice on avalanche dynamics and runout. It is emphasized that high-mountain slope failures need to be viewed from an interdisciplinary perspective, taking a number of process interactions into account.