Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
26 Mar 2010
 | 26 Mar 2010

Recent changes in rainfall characteristics and their influence on thresholds for debris flow triggering in the Dolomitic area of Cortina d'Ampezzo, north-eastern Italian Alps

M. Floris, A. D'Alpaos, C. Squarzoni, R. Genevois, and M. Marani

Abstract. In this paper, we examine variations in climate characteristics near the area of Cortina d'Ampezzo (Dolomites, Eastern Italian Alps), with particular reference to the possible implications for debris-flow occurrence. The study area is prone to debris-flow release in response to summer high-intensity short-duration rainfalls and, therefore, it is of the utmost importance to investigate the potential increase in debris-flow triggering rainfall events. The critical rainfall threshold is agreed to be a crucial triggering factor for debris-flows. Data from a monitoring system, placed in a catchment near Cortina (Acquabona), show that debris-flows were triggered by rainfalls with peak rainfall intensities ranging from 4.9 to 17.4 mm/10 min.

The analyses of meteorological data, collected from 1921 to 1994 at several stations in the study area, show a negative trend of annual rainfall, a considerable variation in the monthly rainfall distribution, and an increase in the temperature range, possibly related to global climate changes. Moreover, high-intensity and short-duration rainfall events, derived from data collected from 1990 and 2008, show an increase in exceptional rainfall events. The results obtained in a peak-over-threshold framework, applied to the rainfall data measured at the Faloria rain gauge station from 1990 to 2008, clearly show that the interarrival time of over-threshold events computed for different threshold values decreased in the last decade. This suggests that local climatic changes might produce an increase in the frequency of rainfall events, potentially triggering debris flows in the study area.