All posts by Marc-Henri Derron

New PhD student in the group RISK

Tiggi Choanji has started a PhD project  in the group RISK of the Institute of Earth Science (ISTE), University of Lausanne, under the supervision of Prof. Michel Jaboyedoff.  Tiggi holds a master degree in geology from Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Indonesia, about the characterization and modelling of sandstone on Central Sumatera.

In Lausanne, Tiggi will work on “The Landslide Identification and Assessment in Areas with Active Movement Plates, Using Satellite Images, Infiltration Analysis and Microstructures Data”.

Welcome to Tiggi

Field visit at Chamoson for debris flows

On 11 August 2019, a debris flows stroke the village of Chamoson, in Wallis (Switzerland). One car with two passengers was washed away and disappeared in the debris flows.

On August 30, some members of the group risk went in Chamoson (1) to understand the processes going on in the source area up in the valley and (2) to map with a UAV-LiDAR the deposit zone. Our colleague of geophysics, Ludovic Baron, had been spending several days searching the disappeared car with a magnetometer. However the method proved to be very efficient, the car and its passengers were not found in the inspected area.

The national Swiss television was present and produced a short report of these techniques for the evening news:

Barcelonnette fieldtrip 2019 for Msc students

Once again the field course for master students in risk took place in the beautiful valley of Ubaye this year. During 11 days (end of May – beginning of June 2019), 12 students from environmental risk or geological risk had the opportunity to study the landslide of Lavalette, work on rockwall stability and discover the processes leading to debris flows. We had the pleasure to be hosted at the scientific center of Seolane in Barcelonnette. 

Debris flow channel of the Riou Bourdoux torrent

Ryan Kromer – visiting scientist in the RISK group

Ryan Kromer is PhD graduate of Queen’s University and a post doctoral researcher at the Colorado School of Mines. He was a visiting PhD student at the University of Lausanne during 2015 and 2016 and is now visiting the Risk group from April to June 2019. During his visit, he will be conducting research on automated monitoring of landslides using terrestrial LiDAR and photogrammetry. The research visit is supported by the Herbette Foundation. Ryan is looking forward to another fruitfull visit with the group.

José Pullarello: First characterization of the “Rumi-Pana” rock avalanche deposits (Famatina Range, La Rioja, Argentina)

Active mountain fronts are subject to large scale slope collapses which have the capacity to run long distances on piedmont areas. Over time, fluvial activity and other gravitatory processes can intensively erode and mask primary features related to the collapses. Therefore, to reconstruct the history of their occurrence, further analyses are needed, like sedimentologic analyses. This work focuses on the occurrence of large rock avalanches in the Vinchina region, La Rioja (28°43’27.81” S / 68°00’25.42” W) on the western side of the Famatina range (Argentina). Here, photointerpretation of high-resolution satellite images (Google Earth) allowed us to identify two rock avalanches, with their main scarps at 2575 and 2750 masl. There are no determined absolute ages for these deposits, however by comparing their preservation degree with those dated further north (in similar climatic and landscape dynamics contexts), we can suggest these rock avalanches took place during the Pleistocene.We carried out a fieldwork survey in this remote area, including classical landslide mapping, structural analysis, deposits characterization and sampling. The deposits reach the valley bottom at around 1700 masl. with runouts about 5 km and 5.3 km long. In one of the cases, the morphology of the deposit is well preserved, allowing to accurately reconstruct its extension. However, in the second case, the deposits are strongly eroded by sources draining from the mountain front, therefore further analyses should be done to reconstruct its extension. In addition to morphologic interpretations, a multiscale grainsize analysis was done to di?erentiate rock avalanches from other hillslope deposits: first 3D surface models of surface plots (5x5m) were built with SfM (structure from motion) photogrammetry; then classical sieving and finally laser grain-size analysis of deposits were performed. Samples were collected on different parts of the slope, but also along cross sections throughout the avalanche deposit. This deposits characterization was combined with results from mapping and image analysis to provide a first description of the sequence and the extension of events related to the evolution of this mountain front. The collected data helped to create a series of propagation models with the software DAN3D, developed by Hungr (2009). We chose a Voellmy rheology for the model with f = 0.10 ± 0.05 and ? = 100 (m/s2) ± 50 (m/s2) for the rock avalanches and f = 0.10 ± 0.05 and ? = 500 (m/s2) ± 200 (m/s2) for the debris flow. The results show a good propagation with more dispersion that we can see on the field. Part of the cover on the numerical model is not visible on the field, probably due to erosion and transport having moved the material, resulting in the current landscape.

Author: José Pullarello
Director: Marc-Henri Derron, Michel Jaboyedoff.
External Supervisor: Ivanna Penna.

Inspection of the Brenva spur (Mt Blanc, Italy)

In collaboration with the Fondazione Montagna Sicura, Michel Jaboyedoff, Antoine Guerin and Li Fei went to Entrèves (Aosta Valley, Italy) on 23 October 2018 to investigate the 1997 Brenva rockslide scar (3’870 m, Mont-Blanc massif), which reactivated in September 2016. A helicopter flight of about 25 minutes allowed acquiring hundreds of pictures (digital and thermal) of the rock mass in exceptional conditions, as the high mountain was dry in late autumn 2018. A high-resolution Structure-from-Motion model was then generated using these pictures, allowing us to analyze in detail the structural features and rockfall activity of the Sperone della Brenva.

View of the Mt BLanc and Brenva spur

3D point cloud model obtained by photogrammetry

3rd Virtual Geosciences Conference

The 3rd Virtual Geosciences Conference took place in Kingston (Ontario) on 22-24 August 2018.  This conference is at the intersection of geomatics, visualization, computer vision, graphics and gaming, as well as virtual and augmented reality with applications to a range of geoscience subfields, such as geological mapping, geomorphology, geohazards, glaciology, volcanology, tunnelling, and mining. It was organized at Queen’s University, by Ryan Kromer, a former PhD student of Lausanne and Queen’s universities. 

MH Derron, S. Buckley, J. Chandler, M. Jaboyedoff and R. Kromer (Chairman of the 3rd VGC)

The first  VGC conference was in Lausanne in 2014 and then in Bergen in 2016. These events are fantastic opportunities to learn how new technologies can be used  in geosciences, gathering together people from different horizons.

Optimizing the use of 3D point clouds data for a better analysis and communication of 3D results. François Noël, Marc-Henri Derron, Michel Jaboyedoff, Catherine Cloutier  Jacques Locat
Infrared Thermal Imaging for Rock Slope Investigation – Potential and Issues. Marc-Henri Derron, Antoine Guérin, Michel Jaboyedoff

Inventory of shallow and spontaneous landslides and improvement of the methodology to establish hazard and risk maps for the Canton of Vaud

On contrary to hazards which have defined return time for establishing natural hazard maps (for example rock falls or floods), there is no similar methodology for shallow and spontaneous landslides. One way to improve the current methodology is proposed by Cedric Meier,  Marc-Henri Derron, Michel Jaboyedoff from RISK-UNIL and Christian Gerber, Veronica Artigue and Melanie Pigeon from the Vaud county administration. It includes the definition of 7 pilots zones based in Jura, Plateau and Alps, on riverbanks or mountain slopes. Based on the new airborne LiDAR acquisition, a former inventory from 1889 to 2013 and basics documents such as geological and topographical maps, air photos, about 110 landslides were registered.

Shallow landslide in the area of Ollon in 2018

The parameters of the source zone of the landslide, like length, width, estimated depth, area, slope angle and propagation angle (Farböschung) were recorded. For each landslide, 3 different volumes (with half-ellipsoid method, elliptical paraboloid method and Sloping Local Base Level or SLBL method, method developed and applied currently at the Institute of Earth Sciences, ISTE – UNIL) were calculated. A volume-frequency distribution, approximated by the Power Law site specific, but also depending on the slope type was developed. Figures showing the probability of the estimated depth or the volume depending on the area of the source zone were also prepared. For the propagation, only 4 % of the landslide have a propagation angle greater than 13°.

Probability of max depth in function of the surface area of the landslide


Jaboyedoff M., & Derron M.-H. 2005: A new method to estimate the infilling of alluvial sediment of glacial valleys using a Sloping Local Base Level, Geogr.Fis.Dinam. Quat., 28, 37-46. 
VD (2017) :

Aron Somazzi: Rockfall hazard and risk analysis in the Pichoux Gorges (Jura, Switzerland)

First, the potential sources of rockfalls are detected. These locations are determined using the slope histogram method. Then, one passes to the analysis and classification of the discontinuities present in the delimited zones. Density, direction, dip, spacing and persistence can give an idea of the state of the rock, the mode of rupture and the potentially mobilizable size. For this part, we link the measurements made in the field with those obtained digitally by remote sensing (terrestrial LIDAR, structure from motion from car or drone, handheld laser scanner). Then we go on to modeling of rockfall propagation. Four different simulation models were used: Eline, RocFall, Trajecto 3D and Rockyfor 3D. Results are then compared and analyzed.

Finally a hazard map is proposed and the risk assessed. In this study, we focus on the risk of direct block-car impact and the risk of collision with a block that is on the roadway. The sum of the risks gives us a value expressed in deaths per year or loss of francs per year.
After quantifying the value of the current risk, scenarios are proposed to reduce the risk. For this risk management part, cost-benefit analysis was used. This is an economic evaluation of the feasibility of the works of the protections proposed in relation to the costs.