Category Archives: News

New visiting PhD student in the group RISK

Chunwei Sun will stay for 2 years in the Risk Group at UNIL. Chunwei is a joint-PhD student of the Department of Geological Engineering of Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, China. His research involves geochemical weathering in rock mass deterioration and the oxidation-acid erosion mechanism of black shale especially. During his stay at UNIL, he will focus on the analysis of fissure water, ion exchange and elements migration processes under water-rock chemical interaction.

Welcome Chunwei!

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

Jérémie Voumard: “Natural hazards affecting the Swiss transportation networks: from their characterization to their low cost survey”

Jérémie Voumard
Director: Prof. Dr. Michel Jaboyedoff
Jury: Dr. Marc-Henri Derron, Dr. Andrea Pedrazzini, Dr. Nicolas Pollet, Prof. Dr. Suren Erkmann

Geological and hydro-geological natural hazards, as landslides and floods, are a threat to many transport networks built in mountainous areas. These risks, that are often small in intensity, are poorly evaluated or unknown.
This doctoral thesis focuses on the characterization and quantification of natural hazards that impact Swiss communication tracks. It also explores various remote sensing techniques dedicated to the survey of areas around traffic lanes.
A database has been created to characterize the many small events that regularly affect roads and railway lines in order to compensate the lack of knowledge. The number of events and their trends – such as their spatio-temporal distribution, the weather, the geology, the direct damages or the types of affected tracks- are thus known at the national level over a period of five years (2012-2016). It shows that a natural event, on average, disrupts the traffic every 2.1 days and that the events occur mostly during the months of June and July, late afternoon. Direct costs were estimated at CHF 4 million per year, with an average cost per event estimated at 23 400 francs.
In order to characterize the approaches to roads and railways, we have developed and tested the photogrammetric technique “on-motion Structure from Motion”, whose cost is reasonable. This remote sensing technic makes possible to obtain colorized and georeferenced 3D point clouds from images taken by four action cameras placed on a moving vehicle. Its accuracy has been evaluated in laboratory conditions and on many sites. It was also compared with seven other traditional surveillance techniques to identify advantages and disadvantages.
This work highlights the impact and consequences of small-scale natural hazards that, taken as a whole, are not negligible for society. In addition, this study demonstrates that low-cost survey technic can compete with more expensive traditional survey techniques.

Keywords: Natural hazards, transportation networks, on-motion Structure for Motion, topographical survey.

Fieldwork in Barcelonnette during September 2018

François Noël, Teresa Gracchi and Emmanuel Wyser of the Risk Analysis Group (UNIL) went to Barcelonnette (France) from the 23rd to the 27th of September for an amazing experimental work in the field dealing with rock fall trajectories and associated topics (e.g. impact response, energy transfer, etc.), amongst other French researchers from Active Deformation Group of the University of Strasbourg (EOST, leaded by Jean-Philippe Malet) and the IRSTEA Institute of Grenoble (leaded by Franck Bourrier).

Several (30) rocks were thrown down into a short but steep gully while seismic signals (EOST) and high-speed imaging (IRSTEA & UNIL) were acquired. High resolution 3D imagings  were acquired thanks to TLS and SfM.

Accelerometers (ISTE & EOST) were also included in few rocky blocks to monitor and acquire data to better understand impact response, angular velocity changes and other exciting data.

 

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

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

REFERENCES

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) : http://www.geo.vd.ch/theme/dangers_nat_thm

Hydrogeochemical characterization of alpine spring waters

With Hans-Ruedi Pfeifer (Hon. Prof. at the University of Lausanne), I had the pleasure to publish a paper in the Bulletin de la Société Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles on the chemical composition of alpine spring waters. This paper is a review of water analysis (major and trace elements) according to the type of bedrock forming the catchment.

Although it is published in French, an extended abstract in English is available and reproduced below, with references to the most significant figures.

Derron M.-H., Pfeifer H.-R (2017) : Caractérisation hydrogéochimique des eaux de source alpines. Bull. Soc :Vaud. Sc.Nat, 96, 5-29.
https://www.e-periodica.ch/digbib/view?pid=bsv-002:2017:96#10
http://dx.doi.org/10.5169/seals-736800

Extended abstract
In order to investigate the influence of bedrock on the chemical composition of alpine spring waters, more than 700 chemical analyses for major and trace elements have been collected from regional reports or thesis. All these waters are from shallow aquifers (no deep or geothermal circulation), where water is cold and oxic, with pH neutral to basic. Five types of bedrock have been distinguished: granite, mafite, ultramafite, limestone and gypseous rocks (mostly gypseous dolomite). Classical physicochemical parameters (pH, temperature and electrical conductivity), major elements and, depending on the authors, about 15 trace elements are usually provided. The concentration ranges of each element in solution, for each type of bedrock, are provided as percentiles in annexes (online). These values are indicators of common water compositions encountered in moderate to high altitude alpine environment.
Results for major elements show that the total dissolved load depends directly on the nature of the bedrock: silicated, carbonated or sulfate-bearing rocks (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Total dissolved solid vs electrical conductivity for alpine waters from silicated rocks, limestones and gypseous rocks (N=696).

Classical diagrams of Schoeller (Figure 2) and Piper (Figure 3), as well as the hydrogeochemical facies of JAECKLI (1970), are used to characterize each water type, corresponding to the five types of rocks considered.

Figure 2: Schoeller’s diagram for the five types of alpine waters considered in this work (median concentrations for each type). 

Figure 3: Piper’s diagram of alpine spring waters for granite (N=98), mafic (61) and ultramafic (36) types on the left, limestones (294) and gypseous rocks (207) on the right.

Two types of water are well differentiated from the others. Waters of gypseous rocks are strongly enriched in Ca, Mg and SO4, with SO4/HCO3 >1. Waters from ultramafic rocks are enriched in Mg, with usually Mg/Ca>1. In all the other types of water (from granites, mafites or limestones), Ca and HCO3 strongly dominate. This convergence of compositions towards an undifferentiated calco-hydrogenocarbonated facies is known in metamorphic rocks. It can be attributed to traces of calcite in the silicate rocks and that metamorphic silicate minerals are much less reactive than calcite. In order to improve the discrimination of these water types, a new ternary diagram is proposed, using relative Ca, Mg and Si concentrations (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Ca-5Mg-10Si  ternary diagram (mMole/L) for alpine spring waters (N=442), with indicative isolines of electrical conductivity. The positions of main rock forming minerals are in the upper figure.

It appears from these analyzes that dissolution properties of minerals (i.e. solubility and dissolution rate) strongly control the content in major elements of these spring waters (Figure 9). In particular, a low amount of a highly soluble and rapidly dissolved mineral may play the main role: gypsum or anhydrite in gypseous rocks, brucite in ultramafites, or calcite in the other rock types.
Dissolved contents of trace elements are highly variables, several orders of magnitude for most of them. Median values and overall distributions, by type of rocks, are displayed in Figure 5 and Figure 6 respectively.

Figure 5: Median concentrations of trace elements in alpine spring waters by type of rocks and by valence. Speciation according to Stumm & Morgan 1996 (cmplx = aqueous complexe).

Figure 6: Wheel of trace elements in solution (inside a slice , the points are spread randomly on the radius that corresponds to the concentration).

For most of trace elements, there is no obvious relationship between rock contents and concentrations in solution. Some exceptions are: 1) water from gypseous rocks are enriched in Li, Rb and Sr; 2) concentrations of U, Mo, As are higher in water from granite. In order to interpret these data and to identify the processes regulating the concentrations of trace elements in solution, the valence, the speciation and a mobility index are used (Figure 10). Dissolution properties of minerals seem to control the concentrations of alkaline elements (Li, Rb, Sr, Ba). Very low concentrations of dissolved Fe, Al, Mn and Ti may be due to precipitation as oxy-hydroxides. Adsorption of transition metals (Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, Pb) on mineral surfaces or suspensions can regulate their concentrations in these basic waters. Higher valence elements (Si, U, Mo, Cr, As) form anionic complexes in natural waters. If they are present in soluble minerals, these anionic complexes may explain the observed enrichment of these elements in some specific types of water (granitic and gypseous).

Figure 9: Solubility vs dissolution rate for main rock forming minerals (pure water at 25°C and equilibrium with atmospheric CO2 and O2). The dissolution rate is expressed as lifetime of a 1mm diameter spherical grain. Both Goldich’s sequences are shown for silicates. The upper figure illustrates a typeical dissolution experiment, with: m = mass of dissolved mineral, kcin = dissolution rate at the beginning of the reaction [g/m2/s],  S = solubility [g/L], Areac= reactive surface of the mineral [m2/L].

Figure 10: Ratio of the median concentration in water on the concentration in rock (molar concentrations for both). The higher is this ratio, more the element is mobile in the system.

New publication in Environmental Earth Sciences about sinkhole-related risk

by Pierrick Nicolet, Marc Choffet, Marc-Henri Derron, Michel Jaboyedoff and Bertrand Lauraux: “Evaporite sinkhole risk for a building portfolio

Karst-related hazard can be a problem for buildings, especially in the case of evaporite karst. This study aims at evaluating the risk posed by evaporite karst for a building portfolio in western Switzerland, using a susceptibility map and an event inventory. Since the inventory is not complete, different corrections aim at obtaining a frequency of sinkhole events damaging a building as close as possible to the actual frequency. These corrections account for the variation of the building stock during the inventory period, the varying inventory quality among the municipalities and the partial knowledge, even in the best case. This approach is preferred here to estimating spatially the hazard, since the amount of information on the frequency and magnitude is insufficient to draw a proper hazard map. The distribution of loss ratios is also retrieved from the inventory, thanks to the estimated or actual price of the remedial works. Annual losses are then estimated using a Monte Carlo approach, which consists in sampling for a number of damaged buildings from a Poisson distribution, for a distribution of loss ratios and for a building value. Different exceedance curves relying on different hypotheses are presented, and the mean annual loss that the public insurance company might have to compensate is estimated at CHF 0.8–1.5 million.

The article can be accessed on Environmental Earth Sciences website. The full text can also be read on SharedIt

Flight at Bondo (GR)

Five people of the Risk Analysis Group went to Bondo, Canton of Graubünden, on 29 September 2017 to make a helicopter flight along the debris flow and cliff collapse of the August event. During a 25 minutes flight from the village of Bondo to the Piz Cengalo through the Val Bondasca, 11’400 pictures were taken by automatically and manually operated cameras . Those data will be used to get 3D models of the area by SfM processing.

 

Thesis on risk analysis available for download

Pierrick Nicolet defended publicly on the 9th of January his PhD entitled “Quantitative risk analysis for natural hazards at local and regional scales”. The thesis aims at improving the quantification of the potential consequences of natural events and is divided in two parts. The first part deals with risk analysis at local scale, which is particularly useful to prioritize the subsidies of protection measures. When it comes to the second part, regional stochastic models are proposed and are oriented towards the portfolio management for public buildings insurances companies.

Since the thesis was accepted, the full text is now available for download here, and the full abstract is available here.