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Differential interferometric applications in alpine regions

Tazio Strozzi(1) and Lateltin Olivier(2)

(1) GAMMA Remote Sensing, Thunstrasse 130, 3074 Muri BE, Switzerland
(2) Federal Office for Water and Geology, Ländtestrasse 20, 2503 Biel / Bienne, Switzerland


The high-mountain mass-transport systems are the results of steady mass shifts and catastrophic mass-movement events. The equilibrium of these systems is markedly influenced by ice occurrence, which makes high mountains especially sensitive to climate impacts. The creeping and thawing of frozen debris, often found as permafrost, is a significant factor for the disposition of periglacial debris flows and related slope instabilities. Not only instabilities of debris slopes but also instabilities of rock slopes can be connected to glacial and permafrost processes. Glacier retreats, for instance, affect the stability of valley flanks, or varying ice content affects the rock hydrology. Such system interactions clearly show the urgent need of integral hazard assessments accounting for a variety of relevant processes in high mountains, also considering that a variety of natural hazards in high mountain regions are affecting human activities. Taking into account the wide-area coverage, remote-sensing techniques represent suitable tools for an integral hazard mapping and monitoring in high mountains, regions that are typically difficult to assess.

The focus of this contribution is on the potential and limitations of differential SAR interferometry for the detection and monitoring of unstable high-mountain slopes. SAR data of the ERS and JERS satellites for the Swiss and Italian Alps have been analyzed with advanced processing techniques including Interferometric Point target Analysis IPTA. Significant results for permafrost creeping, rockslide after glacier retreat and in displacement in built-up areas are presented. The work presented here is part of the SLAM (Services for Landslide Monitoring) project supported by the European Space Agency.


Full paper

Keywords: ESA European Space Agency - Agence spatiale europeenne, observation de la terre, earth observation, satellite remote sensing, teledetection, geophysique, altimetrie, radar, chimique atmospherique, geophysics, altimetry, radar, atmospheric chemistry