Natural Hazards

, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 991–1009 | Cite as

A structured approach to enhance flood hazard assessment in mountain streams

  • B. Mazzorana
  • F. Comiti
  • S. Fuchs
Original Paper


An evidence-based flood hazard analysis in mountain streams requires the identification and the quantitative characterisation of multiple possible processes. These processes result from specific triggering mechanisms on the hillslopes (i.e. landslides, debris flows), in-channel morphodynamic processes associated with sudden bed changes and stochastic processes taking place at critical stream configurations (e.g. occlusion of bridges, failure of levees). From a hazard assessment perspective, such possible processes are related to considerable uncertainties underlying the hydrological cause-effect chains. Overcoming these uncertainties still remains a major challenge in hazard and risk assessment and represents a necessary condition for a reliable spatial representation of process intensities and the associated probabilities. As a result of an accurate analysis of the conceptual flaws present in the procedures currently employed for hazard mapping in South Tyrol (Italy) and Carinthia (Austria), we propose a structured approach as a means to enhance the integration of hillslope, morphodynamic and stochastic processes into conventional flood hazard prediction for mountain basins. To this aim, a functional distinction is introduced between prevailing one-dimensional and two-dimensional process propagation domains, i.e., between confined and semi- to unconfined stream segments. The former domains are mostly responsible for the generation of water, sediment and wood fluxes, and the latter are where flooding of inactive channel areas (i.e. alluvial fans, floodplains) can occur. For the 1D process propagation domain, we discuss how to carry out a process routing along the stream system and how to integrate numerical models output with expert judgement in order to derive consistent event scenarios, thus providing a consistent quantification of the input variables needed for the associated 2D domains. Within these latter domains, two main types of spatial sub-domains can be identified based on the predictability of their dynamics, i.e., stochastic and quasi-deterministic. Advantages and limitations offered by this methodology are finally discussed with respect to hazard and risk assessment in mountain basins.


Natural hazards Hazard mapping River basin management Mountain basins Formative scenario analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Hydraulic EngineeringAutonomous Province of Bolzano South TyrolBolzanoItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of Science and TechnologyFree University of BolzanoBolzanoItaly
  3. 3.Institute of Mountain Risk EngineeringUniversity of Natural Resources and Life SciencesViennaAustria
  4. 4.Research Laboratory of Snow Avalanches and Debris Flows, Faculty of GeographyLomonosov Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussian Federation

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