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Automatic detection of avalanches and debris flows by seismic methods

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The road along the Óshlíð hillside in the West Fjords region of Iceland is one of the most hazardous roads in Iceland due to avalanches, rockfalls and debris flows. The road has little traffic, but nevertheless traffic accidents caused by the severe conditions at the site are common. A number of avalanche tracks are found on the hillside. In some of these tracks, avalanches occur more frequently than in others. When there is an avalanche threat, avalanches generally flow over many tracks in a short time. Monitoring vibrations in the tracks with the highest avalanche frequency can indicate when avalanches start flowing down the hillside in a snowstorm, and avalanche hazard can then be declared with the specific site indicated. The same methodology can be used for rockfalls and debris flows, which are strongly affected by weather conditions and typically occur in clusters. Based on this knowledge, a research project was initiated in February 1996 with the objective of developing an automatic system based on seismic measurements to detect and analyze avalanches on the Óshlíð hillside and to instantly send a warning to a control station.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2007

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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