High Elevation Rock Falls and Their Climatic Control: a Case Study in the Conca di Cervinia (NW Italian Alps)
One of the impacts of climate warming in recent years is the evident increase of the number of rock fall occurrences at high elevations. With few exceptions, these events have small magnitudes and thus are rarely reported and documented, even less so in the past. Therefore it is difficult to use a statistical approach to analyze of the relationships between climate warming and rock slope instability. On the other hand, it is often difficult to carry out a time analysis of meteorological conditions responsible for rock fall triggering, considering that very few automatic weather stations (AWS) are located in the areas and in the altitudinal range that are affected by cryosphere degradation (i.e. above c.a. 3,000 m elevation in the Alps), and that climatic conditions in high elevation environments are spatially and temporally variable. The present study addresses the above-mentioned issues through analysis of a series of small rock falls that occurred in the last 10 years on the Matterhorn and surrounding rock slopes. A specific focus is temperature: we present a preliminary analysis of the spatial and seasonal variability of the vertical temperature gradient in the Conca di Cervinia, where the Matterhorn is located, to illustrate the uncertainty in estimates of the thermometric conditions at high elevation rock fall sites.
KeywordsHigh-elevation rock walls Stability Climate Italian Alps
The authors thank the Centro Funzionale della Regione Autonoma Valle d’Aosta, for the temperature data that have been processed for this work. The VTG analysis was carried out in the framework of a curricular stage of the University of Turin tutored by dott. G.Mandrone.
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