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Ice Avalanche on the Trift Glacier in Switzerland Predicted by GeoPraevent Using an IDS IBIS-FL System

23rd January, 2015 - Switzerland. During the summer of 2014, following some small ice avalanches, the Swiss local authorities contracted GeoPraevent, an IDS customer, for the long term monitoring of the Trift Glacier, on the northwest slope of Weissmies, using an IDS IBIS-FL interferometric radar. A hanging glacier had recently destabilized due to the glacier mass loss predominating the steeper areas. Further information on the project is available on GeoPraevent’s website.

View from the radar’s position of the Trift glacier on Weissmies
View from the radar’s position of the Trift glacier on Weissmies

Two days before the failure the IBIS-FL system was able to monitor the glacier’s movement at about 10cm per day with an unstable section moving with a higher velocity of around 25cm per day. On November 8th an, albeit harmless, detachment of a small block of ice could easily be seen in the radar data. For further images of the data and video of the event, see GeoPraevent’s website.

Radar measurements from Nov 6th. The glacier is moving at around 10-15 cm per day. Just a few pixels (in the blue circle), show velocities of approx. 25-35 cm per day
Radar measurements from Nov 6th. The glacier is moving at around 10-15 cm per day. Just a few pixels (in the blue circle),
show velocities of approx. 25-35 cm per day

The results of the monitoring of Weissmies show that radar interferometry is a useful aid in predicting even small ice avalanches (with a volume of about 1,000m2).