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Hierarchy theory as a conceptual framework for scale issues in avalanche forecast modeling

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Although scale issues have been defined to be one of the most crucial topics in geosciences, they have received only limited attention in avalanche research. A thorough understanding of these issues in avalanche forecasting, however, is fundamental for the development of useful prediction models. After the definition of relevant terms, the different aspects of scale issues are introduced in detail. We present hierarchy theory (Ahl and Allen, 1996) as a potential framework for the multi-scale characteristics of the avalanche phenomenon. We suggest a temporal hierarchy, where the main contributing factors are ordered into seven levels according to their temporal-scale characteristics with respect to avalanche forecasting. Within each level there are individual spatial hierarchies, which result in a two-dimensional structure. This process-oriented framework is compared to the data classification scheme of LaChapelle (1980), which is based on informational entropy. Scale issues in prediction modeling and the consequences of the new framework for modeling efforts are discussed in detail.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-01-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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