Articles | Volume 8, issue 3
12 Jun 2008
 | 12 Jun 2008

Spatial variability and potential impacts of climate change on flood and debris flow hazard zone mapping and implications for risk management

H. Staffler, R. Pollinger, A. Zischg, and P. Mani

Abstract. The main goals of this study were to identify the alpine torrent catchments that are sensitive to climatic changes and to assess the robustness of the methods for the elaboration of flood and debris flow hazard zone maps to specific effects of climate changes. In this study, a procedure for the identification and localization of torrent catchments in which the climate scenarios will modify the hazard situation was developed. In two case studies, the impacts of a potential increase of precipitation intensities to the delimited hazard zones were studied.

The identification and localization of the torrent and river catchments, where unfavourable changes in the hazard situation occur, could eliminate speculative and unnecessary measures against the impacts of climate changes like a general enlargement of hazard zones or a general over dimensioning of protection structures for the whole territory. The results showed a high spatial variability of the sensitivity of catchments to climate changes. In sensitive catchments, the sediment management in alpine torrents will meet future challenges due to a higher rate for sediment removal from retention basins. The case studies showed a remarkable increase of the areas affected by floods and debris flow when considering possible future precipitation intensities in hazard mapping. But, the calculated increase in extent of future hazard zones lay within the uncertainty of the methods used today for the delimitation of the hazard zones. Thus, the consideration of the uncertainties laying in the methods for the elaboration of hazard zone maps in the torrent and river catchments sensitive to climate changes would provide a useful instrument for the consideration of potential future climate conditions. The study demonstrated that weak points in protection structures in future will become more important in risk management activities.