Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Atlas of risky glaciers (Switzerland): “Inventar gefahrlicher Gletscher in der Schweiz“

The inventory includes 82 glaciers, which in the past inflicted damage on persons or property or for which a potential danger was recognised. Of these 82 glaciers, 55 are located in the canton of Valais, 18 in canton of Berne, 2 in the cantons of Vaud, Uri and Grisons, and one in the cantons of Obwalden, Glarus and Ticino respectively.

According to the present assessment, 51 of these 82 glaciers can expect potential damage to settlements (22 cases), traffic routes (28 cases) or other man-made installations (water intake, farm buildings, agricultural land, hiking trails, mountain cabins, tourist facilities) (49 cases) within the next 10 to 20 years. A large number of people pursue various activities within the potential risk zones. At present there is a monitoring scheme for only 12 of the 51 glaciers, whereas for the remaining glaciers such a scheme has still to be devised.

A compilation of all inventoried events showed that since 1595 at least 440 persons have lost their lives in 21 glacial disasters (approximately one event every 20 years, or one victim per year). In 146 events, collateral damage was caused to various human infrastructures (approximately one event every 3 years).

This inventory contains all the information about glacial events and potential risks the team could gather from local chronics, glacier reports, publications and newspapers. However, it does not claim to be exhaustive because some events may have escaped the observers attention or gone unrecorded. As the risk potential changes with glacier fluctuations (in the context of potential climate changes), the results of this evaluation will have to be revised and updated regularly.

In the first section of the inventory, the governing processes of the three risk types are examined. The methods known for early recognition of these dangers are also explained. In the second section, the collected events are presented and illustrated for each glacier by means of maps, figures and photos.

Reported by

Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zurich
Gloriastrasse 37 – 39
8092 Zurich
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