Natural hazard research sites and facilities

When an avalanche comes thundering down Vallée de la Sionne or a debris flow rages in Illgraben, we are on the scene. We use state-of-the-art measuring instruments to take a look inside real-life natural hazards.

Outdoor laboratories offer a major advantage: they allow us to study natural hazards on a realistic scale and under natural conditions. The SLF has several such large-scale instrumented field sites: In Valléé de la Sionne (Arbaz, Valais), we can artificially trigger avalanches – when the snow and weather situation permits this. Using laser scanners, infrared cameras and a wide range of measuring sensors, we research on site how large avalanches move, the forces they generate and how communities, transport routes and infrastructure can best be protected.

At Illgraben in the canton of Valais, nature decides when a debris flow is triggered. But we are prepared for this: an array of measuring instruments register the vibrations that signal the beginning of a debris flow, record the flow height and speed of the mud and debris mass, and measure the forces and weight inside the debris flow mixture.

The results of these large-scale experiments are fed into the software package RAMMS - a simulation programme for natural hazards that can be used to calculate natural hazard processes and evaluate the impact of protective measures.


Research group

RAMMS Rapid Mass Movements

We develop RAMMS, a software package that allows to evaluate natural hazard processes and to facilitate an assessment of the influences of protective measures