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Climate change impacts on mass movements — case studies from the European Alps


Stoffel, Markus; Tiranti, Davide; Huggel, Christian (2014). Climate change impacts on mass movements — case studies from the European Alps. Science of the Total Environment, 493:1255-1266.

Abstract

This paper addresses the current knowledge on climate change impacts on mass movement activity in mountain environments by illustrating characteristic cases of debris flows, rock slope failures and landslides from the French, Italian, and Swiss Alps. It is expected that events are likely to occur less frequently during summer, whereas the anticipated increase of rainfall in spring and fall could likely alter debris-flow activity during the shoulder seasons (March, April, November, and December). The magnitude of debris flows could become larger due to larger amounts of sediment delivered to the channels and as a result of the predicted increase in heavy precipitation events. At the same time, however, debris-flow volumes in high-mountain areas will depend chiefly on the stability and/or movement rates of permafrost bodies, and destabilized rock glaciers could lead to debris flows without historic precedents in the future. The frequency of rock slope failures is likely to increase, as excessively warm air temperatures, glacier shrinkage, as well as permafrost warming and thawing will affect and reduce rock slope stability in the direction that adversely affects rock slope stability. Changes in landslide activity in the French and Western Italian Alps will likely depend on differences in elevation. Above 1500 m asl, the projected decrease in snow season duration in future winters and springs will likely affect the frequency, number and seasonality of landslide reactivations. In Piemonte, for instance, 21st century landslides have been demonstrated to occur more frequently in early spring and to be triggered by moderate rainfalls, but also to occur in smaller numbers. On the contrary, and in line with recent observations, events in autumn, characterized by a large spatial density of landslide occurrences might become more scarce in the Piemonte region.

Abstract

This paper addresses the current knowledge on climate change impacts on mass movement activity in mountain environments by illustrating characteristic cases of debris flows, rock slope failures and landslides from the French, Italian, and Swiss Alps. It is expected that events are likely to occur less frequently during summer, whereas the anticipated increase of rainfall in spring and fall could likely alter debris-flow activity during the shoulder seasons (March, April, November, and December). The magnitude of debris flows could become larger due to larger amounts of sediment delivered to the channels and as a result of the predicted increase in heavy precipitation events. At the same time, however, debris-flow volumes in high-mountain areas will depend chiefly on the stability and/or movement rates of permafrost bodies, and destabilized rock glaciers could lead to debris flows without historic precedents in the future. The frequency of rock slope failures is likely to increase, as excessively warm air temperatures, glacier shrinkage, as well as permafrost warming and thawing will affect and reduce rock slope stability in the direction that adversely affects rock slope stability. Changes in landslide activity in the French and Western Italian Alps will likely depend on differences in elevation. Above 1500 m asl, the projected decrease in snow season duration in future winters and springs will likely affect the frequency, number and seasonality of landslide reactivations. In Piemonte, for instance, 21st century landslides have been demonstrated to occur more frequently in early spring and to be triggered by moderate rainfalls, but also to occur in smaller numbers. On the contrary, and in line with recent observations, events in autumn, characterized by a large spatial density of landslide occurrences might become more scarce in the Piemonte region.

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45 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:10 Dec 2014 16:44
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 08:47
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0048-9697
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.02.102

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