Story of changing climate impact on natural hazards in the Italian Alps

Extreme meteorological events such as the 2018 Vaia storm in north-eastern Italy are becoming more frequent. Especially mountainous areas are severely affected by these extreme events as they usually trigger mass movements such as landslides or debris flows.

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There is also no doubt on the general increase of atmospheric temperatures and the number of snow days diminishing over time with the perennial snow line observed at higher elevations. However, knowing if this increase hazard occurrence exhibits a coherent and straightforward response to changes in climate is not a piece of cake. Recent satellite missions deliver earth observation (EO) data that offers the unique possibility to detect instabilities in remote places that we can barely visit. New findings on the spatio-temporal evolution of climatic and natural hazard events recorded in South Tyrol as well as potential relations between meteorological conditions and the hazard occurrence were analyzed in this paper:

This project was initiated in 2017 at Eurac Research (Bolzano, Italy) when Christian Kofler and Romy Schlogel were monitoring together various active landslides and wondering how climate is changing and affecting natural hazards occurrence in the Italian Alps. The regional authorities are systematically maintaining natural hazard event databases, which were a valuable data source to study the relationship between extreme meteorological events and particular seasonal trends.

Christian Kofler started a PhD in 2017, focusing on gravitational mass movements caused by permafrost degradation whereas Romy Schlogel received a Post-Doc grant to focus on Earth Observations for Monitoring Climate Change Impact on Mountainous Hazards from the ESA Climate Office. While she also studied sites in the Tien Shan and Himalayan mountains, the Eastern Italian Alps offer some of the most up-to-date catalogues of natural hazards and ground-based meteorological stations useful to complete EO.

Romy Schlögel

Individual Consultant , UNITAR-UNOSAT