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