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Snow & Avalanches

The Snow and Avalanche Unit of the Department of Natural Hazards addresses technical and research questions regarding snow, avalanches and mitigation measures. All services and tasks are based on research and development that range from monitoring and measurements to documentation and modeling of snow cover and avalanches. The division offers research that merges scientific methods from different natural and earth sciences, including geography, meteorology, forestry, engineering, physics and computer science. The close collaboration with national and international research organizations, public authorities and industry partners allows a comprehensive exchange and transfer of knowledge between theory and practice.

The spatial distribution of snow, which is gathered by remote sensing techniques, is a key element for investigating hydrologic or snow management questions in a changing climate. Snowpack analysis are implemented to identify sources of spatial and temporal snow cover variability, such as disturbances due to man-made structures or forest- snow interactions. The assessment of snow cover mechanics is of high relevance, in particular to rate stability or predict snow gliding, that is measured at several monitoring sites.

Avalanche activity is directly linked to the corresponding hazard. The analysis of large data sets allows to identify the main drivers and to predict avalanche activity. Modelling avalanche dynamics and the resulting impacts is another task. Laboratory, field and computational experiments, the documentation of avalanche events, and contributing to the development and optimization of simulation tools provide the required support.

In order to enhance guidelines and support a sustainable development in engineering practice, the effectiveness of innovative technical mitigation measures and protection forests is investigated at our field and laboratory test sites. To provide a comprehensive basis for decision-making in policy, integral mitigation approaches, including new concepts in risk management are pursued.