Topographic mapping for snow avalanche hazard modeling

Miller, A., Sirguey, P., & Morris, S. (2022, September 28). Topographic mapping for snow avalanche hazard modelling. GIM International.

The article describes how the use of high-quality digital elevation models (DEMs) derived from satellite photogrammetric mapping (SPM) and Lidar technologies can contribute to mitigating avalanche danger for infrastructure and roads in alpine regions.

Accurate and high-resolution DEMs are essential for dynamic hazard models like Rapid Mass Movement Simulation (RAMMS) to simulate snow avalanches on real terrain. These models help in understanding the behavior of avalanches, predicting their potential impact, and designing appropriate mitigation structures such as berms. By incorporating precise topographic data, decision-makers can better plan the placement of infrastructure and roads, considering the risks posed by 100-year or 300-year avalanche events.

The integration of Lidar technologies, such as terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and UAV-Lidar, further enhances the mapping and modeling process. Lidar scanners can capture fine details of avalanche terrain, including snow layers and fracture heights, providing valuable data for calibrating hazard models and validating their accuracy. The resulting high-resolution topographic mapping allows for more realistic simulations of large avalanches in extreme terrain.

Additionally, the article mentions specific examples from New Zealand where Lidar scanners and UAV-Lidar surveys are used to map avalanche terrain, estimate snow depths, and measure debris volumes. This information assists in assessing the risks posed to infrastructure and roads and aids in designing effective mitigation measures.

The 2022/23 winter season had historic snowfall in the west, resulting in widespread highway closures and damage to residences and infrastructure. In light of these historic weather events and climate change, I feel advanced mapping technologies like SPM and Lidar are extremely important for improved planning and preparedness for avalanche hazards.