Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Permafrost Triggers Massive Rockfall in Tyrol

A significant rockfall in Tyrol caused by thawing permafrost raises concerns for future events. Learn about the impact and implications of this natural occurrence.

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Lisa Fischer
Lisa Fischer
Lisa Fischer is a seasoned journalist with a talent for uncovering hidden stories. With over nine years of experience, she has made a name for herself in the industry with her insightful reporting and writing. Lisa holds a degree in journalism from the University of Vienna and has worked for prominent Austrian newspapers. Her work has been recognized with several awards and she is committed to delivering thoughtful and thought-provoking journalism to her readers. Known for her persistence and integrity, Lisa is a valuable member of the Austrian journalism community.
Thawing Permafrost Rockfall in Tyrol, Austria

A significant rockfall in the Silvretta Group in Tyrol has resulted in the loss of around 120,000 truckloads of rock material. Experts have identified thawing permafrost as the underlying cause, heightening concerns about the potential occurrence of similar incidents in the future. The state has conducted an evaluation of the fallen rock masses, revealing that approximately one million cubic meters of rock detached from the southern summit of the Flughorn. The new summit has undergone a substantial shift, now sitting 19 meters lower and 30 meters northeast of its previous location.

To address the aftermath and ensure safety, authorities are utilizing the collected data from the evaluation as a basis for securing hiking trails in the affected area. Collaborative efforts with the municipality of Galtür and the Landeck district authority are underway to explore the possibility of relocating the currently closed trails. Furthermore, the valuable data gathered will be shared with the scientific community, aiding in their research and analysis.

Laser scanning technology played a pivotal role in assessing the magnitude of the rockfall. A comprehensive measurement campaign was carried out using a state-of-the-art scanner attached to a helicopter, enabling precise data collection of the affected area and its immediate surroundings. By comparing recent measurements with data acquired in 2018, experts successfully determined the volume of the rockfall, creating insightful visualizations that depict the changes that have occurred.

Thawing permafrost has been identified as the root cause of the rockfall. Permafrost acts as a crucial binding agent for mountains, and as it thaws, the risk of similar events amplifies. Although these rockfalls primarily transpire at high altitudes, glacier researcher Kay Helfricht has cautioned that settlements may face indirect threats. The rockfalls have the potential to trigger the release of stored water, resulting in mudslides that could impact populated areas.

For over a decade, the state of Tyrol has been diligently conducting comprehensive surveys, meticulously recording and managing every square meter of the region within a centralized database. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges posed by thawing permafrost and the substantial risks it poses to mountainous areas and nearby settlements.

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