Department of Natural Hazards
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Settlement pressure, mobility and leisure activities involving both the population in the alpine region and tourism can substantially increase the potential avalanche hazard for human beings. Therefore, it is very important to increase also the levels of security. This can only be achieved by developing new and sophisticated tools for the assessment of the potential avalanche hazard for settlements and infrastructure. The Unit of Snow and Avalanches strives to reach this goal through a number of activities.

Scientific bases for these measures are investigations in the fields of snow mechanics, stability, energy and mass balance of snow cover. Our target is to improve methods to enable temporal and spatial prediction of avalanche hazards. Avalanche impacts are studied by means of avalanche dynamic experiments in the laboratory and in situ. Research concentrates on simultaneous measurements of pressures, velocities, internal flows and snow entrainment on different sites along the avalanche path. The results are used for the development, verification, parametrisation and calibration of numeric avalanche dynamic models (SAMOS). These models are used by the Forest Technical Service for Torrent and Avalanche Control (WVL) for hazard zoning.
Research on avalanche protection measures is another priority task of the unit. Activities are completed by surveys and documentation of destructive avalanches.

Priority Areas of Work

  • Snow mechanics
  • Snow cover stability
  • Avalanche dynamics
  • Numeric avalanche simulation models
  • Destructive avalanches
  • Determination of mass and energy balance in snow cover
  • Study of forces and movements in snow cover
  • Measurement of pressures and velocities of avalanches (monitoring)
  • Development and optimisation of avalanche simulation models
  • Verification of avalanche simulation models by means of measuring results
  • Investigation of the impact of new and traditional control measures
  • Development of new tools for the assessment of hazard potentials for settlements and infrastructure
  • Transfer of knowledge to avalanche experts and practitioners
  • Maintenance of a database and documentation of destructive avalanche


Jan-Thomas Fischer
SAMOS Optimisation, Head of Unit
+43-0512-573933 5102 Innsbruck, Room 102

GIS, Risk management, PARAMOUNT +43-0512-573933 5177 Innsbruck, Room 106

Peter Andrecs
Analysis of torrent disasters +43-1-87838-2215 Schönbrunn

Jan-Thomas Fischer
SAMOS Optimisation +43-0512-573933 5102 Innsbruck, Room 102

Reinhard Fromm
Snow Models and Mikrometeorology +43-0512-573933 5104 Innsbruck, Room 104

Thomas Gigele
Laboratory +43-0512-573933-5123 Innsbruck, Room 204

Torrent Research, Hydrology
+43-1-87838-2278 Schönbrunn

Kofler Andreas
Protection Measures
+43 (0) 512-
573 933 5175
Innsbruck, Room 101.12


Unit for Snow and Avalanches
Rennweg 1, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Head of Unit: Dr. Jan-Thomas Fischer

Tel. +43-0512-573933-5102,
Fax: +43-0512-573933-5250

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