mountain permafrost | gravity-driven instabilities | micro-seismology | sensors, algorithms & models

About myself

I graduated from University of Zurich (Switzerland) in August 2018. My PhD thesis entitled “Rock slope dynamics in bedrock permafrost: insights across scales” focused on the acquisition and analysis of unique time series (up to 10 years of fracture kinematics data and 3 years of broadband acoustic/micro-seismic data) in steep mountain permafrost, contributed to an improved understanding of frost cracking as well as rock slope movement and constitutes a baseline for future early warning systems. After a postdoc position at ETH Zurich, I obtained a competitive fellowship research post at TU Munich. I then gained practical experience in the private company SensAlpin, where I was responsible for implementing warning and alarm systems for alpine natural hazards. Since autumn 2021, I have been a member of the permafrost research group in the Climate Change, Extremes, and Natural Hazards in Alpine Regions Research Center CERC at SLF in Davos.

My research visions are (1) to contribute towards improving the understanding of processes in mountain permafrost leading to rock slope destabilization or potentially preparing rock slope failure and (2) to monitor critical locations by combining different observations with the goal of designing an early warning system for rock slope instabilities. In this context the role of water will be investigated, using in-situ measurements and numerical modeling.

My research interests concern mountain environments and climate change, especially (1) steep alpine permafrost, (2) cryospheric controls on slope movement and stability in a changing alpine cryosphere and (3) process understanding and quantification of phenomena in mountain permafrost with instrumentation, measurements and models.

Brief insight into my research activities

PermaSense Matterhorn Cryosphere Observatory

The subsurface heat transport and hydrology in permafrost areas but also the linkage between freeze-thaw processes and destabilization of rock masses are currently poorly understood, despite their scientific and socio-economic relevance. The focus of this study is the investigation of the sensible and latent advective heat transport and water circulation and related rock movements in steep high alpine bedrock. The Matterhorn field site is situated at 3450 m a.s.l. on the north-east ridge (Hörnligrat). PermaSense measurements gather information about timing and magnitude of relevant processes as well as data for model verification.

In addition to a detailed description of the field setup, an annual release of temperature and kinematic data as well as real-time seismic data are available.

The swaying Matterhorn

Ambient motion of the Matterhorn, stimulated by ambient seismic energy from the Earth, was measured with seismic stations installed on the summit and Hörnli ridge of the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn is constantly in motion swaying back forth about once every 2 seconds, trembling at predictable modes of resonance. We used ambient vibration modal analysis and numerical eigenfrequency modeling to identify the fundamental resonance mode of the Matterhorn (0.43 Hz) with a high damping ratio of ~20%.

Matterhorn made audible: a day of continuous ambient vibration data recorded from the summit of the Matterhorn - speed up 80 times to become audible - the low tones are the gentle swaying of the peak, high cracks and pops are earthquakes and rock cracking events - select an hour and listen:

Source: Weber, Beutel, Häusler, Geimer, Fäh and Moore (2021). Spectral amplification of ground motion linked to resonance of large-scale mountain landforms. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117295