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A new tree-ring-based, semi-quantitative approach for the determination of snow avalanche events: use of classification trees for validation

  • Schläppy, R.
  • Jomelli, V.
  • Grancher, D.
  • Stoffel, M.
  • Corona, C.
  • Brunstein, D.
  • Eckert, N.
  • Deschatres, M.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
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On forested paths, dendrogeomorphology has been demonstrated to represent a powerful tool to reconstruct past activity of avalanches, an indispensable step in avalanche hazard assessment. Several quantitative and qualitative approaches have been shown to yield reasonable event chronologies but the question of the completeness of tree-ring records remains debatable. Here, we present an alternative semi-quantitative approach for the determination of past snow avalanche events. The approach relies on the assessment of the number and position of disturbed trees within avalanche paths as well as on the intensity of reactions in trees. In order to demonstrate that no bias was induced by the dendrogeomorphic expert, we carry out a statistical evaluation (Classification and Regression Trees, or CART) of the approach. Results point to the consistency and replicability of the procedure and to the fact that the approach is not restricted to the identification of high-magnitude avalanches. Evaluation of the semi-quantitative approach is illustrated on a well-documented path in Chamonix, French Alps. For the period 1905-2010, comparison between the avalanche years recorded in a substantial database (Enquête Permanente sur les Avalanches, or EPA) and those defined with dendrogeomorphic techniques shows that the avalanche record reconstructed from tree-ring series contains 38% of the observed events.

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