Climate change has a particularly strong impact in high-mountain regions, as rapidly shrinking glaciers demonstrate in a clear manner. These drastic geomorphic changes have important implications with respect to natural hazards. The aim of this paper is to document the possible processes and consequences of such hazards, and to demonstrate how modern remote sensing and modeling techniques can be used for rapid assessment of potentially endangered areas.
Three case studies are presented from the European Alps, the Andes and the Caucasus. They refer to hazards associated with glacial lake formation and growth, and possible related lake outbursts, as well as massive mass movement processes due to destabilization of large glacierized mountain walls.
Due to the remoteness and difficult access in most high-mountain regions, satellite remote sensing is a highly appropriate tool for monitoring purposes in these areas. We outline here the range of currently available satellite sensor data and show how it can be used to identify potential hazard sources. Based on the detected critical areas, we use mass movement propagation models embedded in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to approximately delineate endangered areas. Such remote sensing and modeling based first-order hazard assessments are an important tool for further detailed studies, for land use planning, and for prevention and mitigation measures.