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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  10 Mar 2020

10 Mar 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Multi-hazard risk assessment for roads: Probabilistic versus deterministic approaches

Stefan Oberndorfer1,2, Philip Sander3, and Sven Fuchs2 Stefan Oberndorfer et al.
  • 1Chartered Engineering Consultant for Mountain Risk Engineering and Risk Management, Ecking 57, 5771 Leogang, Austria
  • 2Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Peter Jordan Straße 82, 1190 Vienna, Austria
  • 3Institute of Construction Management, Bundeswehr University Munich, Werner-Heisenberg-Weg 39, 85577 Neubiberg, Germany

Abstract. Mountain hazard risk analysis for transport infrastructure is regularly based on deterministic approaches. Due to a variety of variables and data needed for risk computation, a considerable degree of epistemic uncertainty results. Consequently, input data needed for risk assessment is normally processed as mean values with or without scatter, or as an individual deterministic value from expert judgement if no statistical data is available. To overcome this gap, we used a probabilistic approach to express the potential bandwidth of input data with two different distribution functions, taking a mountain road in the Eastern European Alps as case study. The risk assessment included the damage potential of road infrastructure and traffic exposed to a multi-hazard environment (torrent processes, snow avalanches, rock fall). Reliable quantiles of the calculated probability density distributions attributed to the aggregated road risk due to the impact of multiple-mountain hazards were compared to the deterministic results from the standard guidelines on road safety. The results clearly show that with common deterministic approaches risk is significantly underestimated in comparison to a probabilistic risk modelling setup, mainly due to epistemic uncertainties of the input data. The study provides added value to further develop standardized road safety guidelines and may therefore be of particular importance for road authorities and political decision-makers.

Stefan Oberndorfer et al.

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Stefan Oberndorfer et al.

Stefan Oberndorfer et al.


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Short summary
The article provides a comparison of a standard (deterministic) risk assessment approach for roads exposed to a multi-hazard environment with a probabilistic risk analysis method to show the potential bias in the results. A probabilistic approach enables the quantification of epistemic uncertainty and uses probability distributions to characterize data uncertainty of the input variables while a deterministic computation uses single values with discrete values without uncertainty representation.
The article provides a comparison of a standard (deterministic) risk assessment approach for...