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Timing, volume and precursory indicators of rock- and cliff fall on a permafrost mountain ridge (Mattertal, Switzerland)

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Abstract
High mountain environments are increasingly affected by rockfall-related hazards, driven by climate change. Studying rockfall in these environments is, however, challenging due to the inaccessibility of mountain ridges and the complex interaction between controlling factors. In this study, the rock wall of Grosse Grabe North Pillar in the Matter valley (Western Swiss Alps) was studied in detail over a timespan of 4 years (2017-2021). Data was collected from time-lapse photography, terrestrial laser scanning, unmanned aerial vehicle photogrammetry and seismic measurements. The presented dataset is unique because data collection started before the onset of the rock wall destabilization, allowing us to understand precursory indicators of large-scale events. In total, we recorded 382 rock- and cliff fall events (100-31 300 m(3)), with a total volume of 204 323 +/- 8173 m(3), resulting in a scar depth of similar to 40 m. An associated rock wall retreat rate of 71.2 +/- 2.8 mm year(-1) was calculated for the 1991-2021 period. Highly fractured south-exposed gneiss lithology is viewed as the main predisposition for the observed rock- and cliff fall events, allowing high-temperature oscillations to cause irreversible movements at fracture level. Cliff falls (10(4)-10(6) m(3)) were preluded by an outward movement of the rock wall that started to increase 1.5 years before any significant collapse of the rock wall, reaching locally up to 30 cm. All cliff fall events occurred in summer, exposing ice in the clefts. This is assumed to be the base of the permafrost from the north side. Rapid permafrost degradation is viewed as a triggering factor after its exposure, causing progressive failure of the rock wall, leading to very high rock wall retreat rates on a decadal timescale.
Keywords
mountain permafrost, photogrammetry, rockfall, seismology, structural predisposition, terrestrial laser scanner, MONT-BLANC MASSIF, CLIMATE-CHANGE, SLOPE INSTABILITY, SEDIMENT TRANSFER, SWISS-ALPS, ROCKFALLS, GLACIERS, TEMPERATURE, IMPACTS, EROSION

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MLA
Hendrickx, Hanne, et al. “Timing, Volume and Precursory Indicators of Rock- and Cliff Fall on a Permafrost Mountain Ridge (Mattertal, Switzerland).” EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS, vol. 47, 2022, pp. 1532–49, doi:10.1002/esp.5333.
APA
Hendrickx, H., Le Roy, G., Helmstetter, A., Pointner, E., Larose, E., Braillard, L., … Frankl, A. (2022). Timing, volume and precursory indicators of rock- and cliff fall on a permafrost mountain ridge (Mattertal, Switzerland). EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS, 47, 1532–1549. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.5333
Chicago author-date
Hendrickx, Hanne, Gaëlle Le Roy, Agnès Helmstetter, Eric Pointner, Eric Larose, Luc Braillard, Jan Nyssen, Reynald Delaloye, and Amaury Frankl. 2022. “Timing, Volume and Precursory Indicators of Rock- and Cliff Fall on a Permafrost Mountain Ridge (Mattertal, Switzerland).” EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS 47: 1532–49. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.5333.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Hendrickx, Hanne, Gaëlle Le Roy, Agnès Helmstetter, Eric Pointner, Eric Larose, Luc Braillard, Jan Nyssen, Reynald Delaloye, and Amaury Frankl. 2022. “Timing, Volume and Precursory Indicators of Rock- and Cliff Fall on a Permafrost Mountain Ridge (Mattertal, Switzerland).” EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS 47: 1532–1549. doi:10.1002/esp.5333.
Vancouver
1.
Hendrickx H, Le Roy G, Helmstetter A, Pointner E, Larose E, Braillard L, et al. Timing, volume and precursory indicators of rock- and cliff fall on a permafrost mountain ridge (Mattertal, Switzerland). EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS. 2022;47:1532–49.
IEEE
[1]
H. Hendrickx et al., “Timing, volume and precursory indicators of rock- and cliff fall on a permafrost mountain ridge (Mattertal, Switzerland),” EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS, vol. 47, pp. 1532–1549, 2022.
@article{8741818,
  abstract     = {{High mountain environments are increasingly affected by rockfall-related hazards, driven by climate change. Studying rockfall in these environments is, however, challenging due to the inaccessibility of mountain ridges and the complex interaction between controlling factors. In this study, the rock wall of Grosse Grabe North Pillar in the Matter valley (Western Swiss Alps) was studied in detail over a timespan of 4 years (2017-2021). Data was collected from time-lapse photography, terrestrial laser scanning, unmanned aerial vehicle photogrammetry and seismic measurements. The presented dataset is unique because data collection started before the onset of the rock wall destabilization, allowing us to understand precursory indicators of large-scale events. In total, we recorded 382 rock- and cliff fall events (100-31 300 m(3)), with a total volume of 204 323 +/- 8173 m(3), resulting in a scar depth of similar to 40 m. An associated rock wall retreat rate of 71.2 +/- 2.8 mm year(-1) was calculated for the 1991-2021 period. Highly fractured south-exposed gneiss lithology is viewed as the main predisposition for the observed rock- and cliff fall events, allowing high-temperature oscillations to cause irreversible movements at fracture level. Cliff falls (10(4)-10(6) m(3)) were preluded by an outward movement of the rock wall that started to increase 1.5 years before any significant collapse of the rock wall, reaching locally up to 30 cm. All cliff fall events occurred in summer, exposing ice in the clefts. This is assumed to be the base of the permafrost from the north side. Rapid permafrost degradation is viewed as a triggering factor after its exposure, causing progressive failure of the rock wall, leading to very high rock wall retreat rates on a decadal timescale.}},
  author       = {{Hendrickx, Hanne and Le Roy, Gaëlle and Helmstetter, Agnès and Pointner, Eric and Larose, Eric and Braillard, Luc and Nyssen, Jan and Delaloye, Reynald and Frankl, Amaury}},
  issn         = {{0197-9337}},
  journal      = {{EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS}},
  keywords     = {{mountain permafrost,photogrammetry,rockfall,seismology,structural predisposition,terrestrial laser scanner,MONT-BLANC MASSIF,CLIMATE-CHANGE,SLOPE INSTABILITY,SEDIMENT TRANSFER,SWISS-ALPS,ROCKFALLS,GLACIERS,TEMPERATURE,IMPACTS,EROSION}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  pages        = {{1532--1549}},
  title        = {{Timing, volume and precursory indicators of rock- and cliff fall on a permafrost mountain ridge (Mattertal, Switzerland)}},
  url          = {{http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/esp.5333}},
  volume       = {{47}},
  year         = {{2022}},
}

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