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Belgium's burning coal tips – coupling thermographic ASTER imagery with topography to map debris slide susceptibility

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Burning coal tips and the debris slides induced by this combustion are a potential danger for local residents and visitors, and a method is required to identify areas of susceptibility. The relatively easy circulation of air, enhanced by the poor compaction of the spoil heaps, and the exothermic reaction of pyrite with oxygen may ignite coal tips. Rainwater infiltration and subsequent evaporation inside burning coal tips may create steam pressure, which, combined with humidity and slope steepness can then trigger landsliding. Based on mapping of debris slides and susceptibility factors such as burning (represented by positive surface temperature anomalies on thermographic imagery) and slope gradient, this study aims to define thresholds for debris slide susceptibility on coal tips and to map potential debris slide source areas on spoil heaps. The Belgian coal tips were used as study area. A DTM as well as ASTER Kinetic Surface Temperature products were used to measure slope gradients and temperature anomaly. Locations with typical characteristics of combustion (heat, red soil colour, steam and gasses), and debris slides were recorded in the field, and were used to identify thresholds beyond which debris sliding is generally observed: a temperature anomaly of > 0.5 K, when comparing the debris slide areas to the average temperature of the coal tip, and a slope gradient ≥ 28°. The susceptibility zones for debris slide detachment were mapped by considering the imagery pixels that exceeded the thresholds for temperature and slope gradient; the results fitted well when compared with the observed debris slides. The method can be improved by using more coal tips for calibration, and by taking into account rain depth and slope aspect.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2012

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  • Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie main volume is a peer-reviewed international journal presenting original contributions of high scientific standard from all fields of geomorphology, encompassing basic research and applied studies. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie (ZfG) invites the submission of original papers from the entire field of geomorphological research, both applied and theoretical. Authors are encouraged to submit their papers to the editor-in-chief. Please peruse the instructions to authors (PDF) before submitting your paper.

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