Articles | Volume 9, issue 4
14 Aug 2009
 | 14 Aug 2009

A nonlinear model coupling rockfall and rainfall intensity based \newline on a four year measurement in a high Alpine rock wall (Reintal, German Alps)

M. Krautblatter and M. Moser

Abstract. A total of more than 140 000 kg of small-magnitude rockfall deposits was measured in eight rockfall collectors of altogether 940 m2 in size between 1999–2003 below a 400–600 m high rock face in the Reintal, German Alps. Measurements were conducted with a temporal resolution up to single days to attribute rockfall intensity to observed triggering events. Precipitation was assessed by a rain gauge and high-resolution precipitation radar. Intense rainstorms triggered previously unreported rockfall intensities of up to 300 000 g/(m2h) that we term "secondary rockfall event." In comparison to dry periods without frost (10−2g/(m2h)), rockfall deposition increased by 2–218 times during wet freeze-thaw cycles and by 56-thousand to 40-million times during secondary rockfall events. We obtained three nonlinear logistic growth models that relate rockfall intensity [g/(m2h)] to rainfall intensity [mm/h]. The models account for different rock wall intermediate storage volumes, triggering thresholds and storage depletion. They apply to all rockfall collector positions with correlations from R2=0.89 to 0.99. Thus, the timing of more than 90% of the encountered rockfall is explained by the triggering factor rainfall intensity. A combination of rockfall response models with radar-supported storm cell forecast could be used to anticipate hazardous rockfall events, and help to reduce the exposure of individuals and mobile structures (e.g. cable cars) to the hazard. According to meteorological recordings, the frequency of these intense rockfall events is likely to increase in response to global warming.