Articles | Volume 6, issue 4
19 Jul 2006
 | 19 Jul 2006

Avalanche risk assessment – a multi-temporal approach, results from Galtür, Austria

M. Keiler, R. Sailer, P. Jörg, C. Weber, S. Fuchs, A. Zischg, and S. Sauermoser

Abstract. Snow avalanches pose a threat to settlements and infrastructure in alpine environments. Due to the catastrophic events in recent years, the public is more aware of this phenomenon. Alpine settlements have always been confronted with natural hazards, but changes in land use and in dealing with avalanche hazards lead to an altering perception of this threat. In this study, a multi-temporal risk assessment is presented for three avalanche tracks in the municipality of Galtür, Austria. Changes in avalanche risk as well as changes in the risk-influencing factors (process behaviour, values at risk (buildings) and vulnerability) between 1950 and 2000 are quantified. An additional focus is put on the interconnection between these factors and their influence on the resulting risk. The avalanche processes were calculated using different simulation models (SAMOS as well as ELBA+). For each avalanche track, different scenarios were calculated according to the development of mitigation measures. The focus of the study was on a multi-temporal risk assessment; consequently the used models could be replaced with other snow avalanche models providing the same functionalities. The monetary values of buildings were estimated using the volume of the buildings and average prices per cubic meter. The changing size of the buildings over time was inferred from construction plans. The vulnerability of the buildings is understood as a degree of loss to a given element within the area affected by natural hazards. A vulnerability function for different construction types of buildings that depends on avalanche pressure was used to assess the degree of loss. No general risk trend could be determined for the studied avalanche tracks. Due to the high complexity of the variations in risk, small changes of one of several influencing factors can cause considerable differences in the resulting risk. This multi-temporal approach leads to better understanding of the today's risk by identifying the main changes and the underlying processes. Furthermore, this knowledge can be implemented in strategies for sustainable development in Alpine settlements.