Current projects

X-Sense2: Developing MEMS acoustic detectors for detecting destructive processes such as a rock face collapsing, leading to severe natural hazards

Funding:

Nano-tera

GIUZ PI:

A. Vieli

Project PIs:

L. Thiele, J. Beutel, A. Geiger, C. Hierold, H. Raetzo, A. Vieli

GIUZ Staff

A. Vieli, A. Cicoira, S. Weber

Keywords:

Acoustic detectors, natural hazards, rock face collapse

links

http://www.nano-tera.ch/projects/371.php#desc

Geographic focus:

Swiss Alps

Understanding, controlling and minimizing the risk associated with changes in our natural environment is of major societal interest. An accelerating growth in the need for risk-reduction methods and technology is caused by three superimposed trends:

  1. growing vulnerability through expansion of infrastructure and human activity into intrinsically hazardous environments such as mountains;
  2. increased hazard potentials due to climate change;
  3. a reduced acceptance of risk due to increasing subjective and objective needs for safety

X-Sense2 contributes to the reduction of this growing gap between supply and demand by technological development and scientific advance. It investigates a complete data chain from custom designed sensor technology over networking, data-based storage and processing towards new discoveries in environmental sciences and new, more effective technologies for early warning.

Swiss Permafrost Monitoring Network (PERMOS)

Funding:

MeteoSwiss, BAFU, SCNAT

GIUZ PI:

A. Vieli

Project PIs:

J. Nötzli, B. Staub, J. Wicky, C. Hilbich, R. Delaloye

GIUZ Staff

A. Vieli, I. Gärtner-Roer

Keywords:

Mountain permafrost monitoring, borehole temperatures, ground surface temperatures, kinematics

links

http://permos.ch/

Geographic focus:

Swiss Alps

The PERMOS Network aims at documenting the state and changes of mountain permafrost in the Swiss Alps on a long-term basis using measurements of ground temperatures, electrical resistivities and kinematics. The GIUZ hosts the coordination office of the PERMOS Network, and is at the same time one of the six partner institutes from academia, which maintain the observation sites and are responsible for data acquisition and processing.

Recent and future evolution of glacial lakes in China (EVOGLAC): Spatio-temporal diversity and hazard potential

Funding:

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

Project PIs:

T. Bolch

GIUZ staff:

A. Linsbauer, S. Allen, J. Müller, O. King

Keywords:

Modelling, Remote sensing, Hazards, Glacier Lakes

Geographic focus:

China, Tibet, Himalaya
The disappearance of mountain glaciers and expansion of glacial lakes are amongst the most recognizable and dynamic impacts of climate warming. Such new lakes bring opportunities (e.g., hydropower, tourism) but also pose significant threats, due to the increasing potential for catastrophic Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). This threat is most pronounced across high mountain Asia, where communities, transportation networks, and other vital infrastructure are exposed. This is particularly true for China, where many potentially dangerous lakes have been documented, and significant growth of these lakes has been noted over recent decades. In view of projected warming over the 21st century and continued retreat of glaciers, scientific attention has recently shifted beyond monitoring and assessment of the existing GLOF threat, towards the anticipation of where new, potentially problematic lakes will form in the future. Such lakes will most likely develop in bedrock depressions or overdeepenings in the exposed glacier bed, and as such, methods have been developed to model bed topography and thereby identify where these new lakes will form. However, a key limitation remains that timing of the emergence and future evolution of glacial lakes is generally unconstrained for data-scarce mountain regions. This represents a major scientific challenge, as local climatological, geomorphological, and topographic conditions will lead to significant diversity in lake evolution. In addition, integrated approaches are yet to be developed which consider the full range of triggering processes that contribute to GLOF hazard both now, and in the future. Highly transient factors include the stability of surrounding ice and rock walls, the thawing of ice-cored moraine dams, and changes in heavy precipitation, snowmelt and faster runoff that may be expected in some deglaciated catchments.The overall aim of the proposed study is to develop and implement a comprehensive methodological approach to investigate the recent and future evolution of glacial lakes and their related hazard potential in different climatological, geomorphological, and topographic settings. This will lead to improved understanding and prediction of lake formation, change in GLOF triggering processes, and change in hazard in downstream areas, as glaciers continue to retreat over the 21st century and beyond. The research methodology is centred on seven work packages which bring together the complementary strengths of the partner institutions in the fields of remote sensing based analyses of the cryosphere, GIS-based modelling, and GLOF hazard assessment. Within three contrasting study regions in Tibet, reconstruction of the recent (since ca. 1970) evolution of glacier thinning, retreat, and associated lake development will provide the basis for catchment-scale modelling of future changes. The integrated modelling approach will consider not only the expansion of existing lakes, but also the formation of new lakes in the exposed bed topography, and will investigate the corresponding increase in GLOF potential as key transient triggering processes evolve in a warmer climate. For selected critical lakes, both now, and in the future, complete lake outburst modelling will be undertaken, providing a quantitative basis for assessing the change in downstream hazard.The methodological approach will be optimised for outscaling to larger regions, recognising the urgent need for robust scientific information to support adaptation planning in response to the rapidly evolving GLOF threat across high mountain Asia. The exchange of knowledge between Swiss and Chinese institutions will ensure that local scientists are best positioned to lead ongoing monitoring programs and further research activities in the region.