Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
15 Oct 2008
 | 15 Oct 2008

Optimal design under uncertainty of a passive defense structure against snow avalanches: from a general Bayesian framework to a simple analytical model

N. Eckert, E. Parent, T. Faug, and M. Naaim

Abstract. For snow avalanches, passive defense structures are generally designed by considering high return period events. In this paper, taking inspiration from other natural hazards, an alternative method based on the maximization of the economic benefit of the defense structure is proposed. A general Bayesian framework is described first. Special attention is given to the problem of taking the poor local information into account in the decision-making process. Therefore, simplifying assumptions are made. The avalanche hazard is represented by a Peak Over Threshold (POT) model. The influence of the dam is quantified in terms of runout distance reduction with a simple relation derived from small-scale experiments using granular media. The costs corresponding to dam construction and the damage to the element at risk are roughly evaluated for each dam height-hazard value pair, with damage evaluation corresponding to the maximal expected loss. Both the classical and the Bayesian risk functions can then be computed analytically. The results are illustrated with a case study from the French avalanche database. A sensitivity analysis is performed and modelling assumptions are discussed in addition to possible further developments.