, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 15–27 | Cite as

Application of infrared thermography for mapping open fractures in deep-seated rockslides and unstable cliffs

  • Ivo Baroň
  • David Bečkovský
  • Lumír Míča
Original Paper


We present a new approach for mapping open cracks and tension fractures within rock slope instabilities and rock cliffs, which resides in high-resolution ground-based and airborne infrared thermography (IRT). The method is restricted to cold seasons, and its utility is demonstrated through three examples from the Flysch Belt of the Outer West Carpathians (rockslides at Kopce Hill and Mt. Kněhyně) and from the Northern Calcareous Alps (deep-seated gravitational slope deformations in Gschliefgraben/Mt. Traunstein). The approach is based on a contrast between temperatures deep within the rock mass, which at a depth of few meters represent local mean annual values, and winter-time temperatures of the ground surface. In winter, warmer, buoyant air from depth rises to the ground surface through open cracks and joints, and the temperature contrast can be detected by IRT. Our test survey was conducted in the beginning of February 2012, in order to achieve the best contrast between temperatures around open tension cracks and the adjacent ground. For temperature sensing, we used a FLIR B360 thermal camera; for airborne surveys in the ambient air, temperatures at the time of our surveys ranged from approximately −19 to −7 °C. IRT results conclusively revealed the presence of open cracks, loosened rock zones, and pseudo-karst caves over a distance sometimes greater than 1 km. The IRT approach proved useful for rapidly assessing the distribution of open cracks and tension fractures, key information required for assessing rockfall and rockslide hazard.


Infrared thermography Deep-seated rockslides Deep-seated gravitational slope deformations Rock cliffs Tension cracks Pseudo-karst caves Rockfall hazard 



The survey in the Czech Republic was supported by the project “OP VAVpI CZ.1.05/2.1.00/03.0097” AdMaS; the Austrian site was supported by the 7th FP project SafeLand. The authors would like to thank J. Prchal from CIS Air, Slušovice for the assistance in acquiring airborne images, Robert Supper for his support, and Norman Harland for the language corrections. Jeffrey R. Moore and another anonymous referee are acknowledged for their helpful comments and suggestions that improved the quality and clarity of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geological Survey of AustriaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Centre AdMaS, Faculty of Civil EngineeringTechnical University BrnoBrnoCzech Republic

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