Category Archives: Projects_completed

Napoleome project

The Napoleome project of the University of Lausanne is a participatory scientific project about genomics. Public conferences and workshops are organized to popularize the research and issues in genetics.

Practically, the project shows that genetic diversity can take place inside a single individual, by decoding the full genome of the Napoléon oak tree located on the University campus. Because of its experience in terrestrial LiDAR, the Risk Group (mainly by J. Voumard, S. and Hiscox (FGSE) supported by C. Longchamp, M.-H. Derron & M. Jaboyedoff) has been asked to scan this 200 years old tree in 3D. Eight LiDAR scans were made around the tree and then merged to get the whole tree structure as a 3D point cloud. These data have then be used by web designers to produce a 3d meshed model.

Further information about the project, collaborators, activities … are avaliable on the Napoleome project website (in french).

Oak tree, Napoleome

Napoleome website printsreen

CHANGES – Changing Hydro-meteorological Risks as Analyzed by a New Generation of European Scientists

The CHANGES network was a Marie Curie Initial Training Network funded by the European Community’s 7th Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under Grant Agreement No. 263953. The overall strategy of the network was to bring together a group of researchers with diverse backgrounds, and disciplines. The network included 11 partner institutions hosting one or more researchers and 6 associate partners that co-supervised research projects, offered internships and participated in CHANGES network events.

CHANGES intended to develop an advanced understanding of how global changes (environmental, climate change and socio-economical change) affect the temporal and spatial patterns of hydro-meteorological hazards and associated risks in Europe; how these changes can be assessed, modeled, and incorporated in sustainable risk management strategies, focusing on spatial planning, emergency preparedness and risk communication.

Risk Analysis group of UNIL was involved in WP-4 of the project and hosted two Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) related to the development of an integrated web-based Decision Support System of how to use available risk information in risk reduction. The developed platform was based on open source software and technologies, and the stakeholders can analyze different risk scenarios, evaluate possible risk reduction alternatives and make appropriate decisions using Multi-Criteria Decision Making approaches with the support of other modules and resources provided by the different components of the project.

For more detailed information, deliverables and publications, please refer to the CHANGES website.

Featured image: Super-Sauze, Barcelonnette (copyright CHANGES)

Ecosystems Protecting Infrastructure and Communities (EPIC): Nepal-Reducing risk from landslides and flash floods

Large and small hazard events are already the main cause of mortality – second only to epidemics – for mountain populations in Nepal and a major impediment to rural development. Due to the dispersed nature of mountain hazards, especially landslides and flash floods, little attention has been paid by NGOs or government agencies to reducing such risks. Also, in parallel with the decentralization of power and budgets, new road construction is booming, often being undertaken by communities themselves who lack any technical knowledge. Bio-engineering measures, which are cost-effective and easily adapted to the local context, could significantly reduce landslides along roads but are rarely incorporated in road construction in Nepal.

This initiative builds on an existing baseline of research and links with specific partners and communities. Support from EPIC will enable ecosystem-based approaches to become integrated within planning and decision-making services in Nepal, ultimately making a positive and lasting contribution towards community security and welfare.

The project was undertaken in the Panchase region of Western Nepal. Selected communities are from three districts: Kaski, Parbat and Syangja district.

For detailed information, please refer to EPIC’s website.

Characterizing and analyzing 3D temporal slope evolution

This was a project carried out at the Group Risk of the University of Lausanne, in close collaboration with experts from the University of Barcelona, the Geological Survey of Norway, the University of Alicante and the UPC. Please find below the summary of the project:

Although the use of new remote sensing techniques, either terrestrial, aerial or satellite-based, is shedding light into how landslides behave and evolve, still many questions need to be solved regarding the treatment of these datasets, more specifically LiDAR point clouds and its application to a better modelling and forecasting of landslides in 4D (X,Y,Z and Time).

Our research was focused on the development of new algorithms for the modeling and quantification of the geometrical variation of different failure mechanisms (e.g. toppling, falls, slides, etc) along time. The project was conceived through a threefold strategy: in a first step, we simulated mass movements at analog scale using a sandbox, in order to acquire high resolution 3D temporal data. Then, we exploited these datasets for the development of new algorithms aiming to better modelling and quantify the landslide geometrical variation along the different phases of the rupture. In the third and final step, we applied these algorithms to the study of more complex landslides in well instrumented pilot study areas, aiming to a better modelling and understanding of the 3D evolution suffered by complex mass movements during the pre-failure and failure stages.

This project was conceived as the logical continuation of the one year FNS project 138015 “Understanding landslide precursory deformation from superficial 3D data”. The outputs of the project will improve future implementation of 3D remote sensing techniques in early warning systems, a great challenge in current risk management strategies.

Funded by: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

More detailed information can be found at the project’s website.

Slope instabilities mapping using GIS, Differential SAR Interferometry methodologies and field investigations along the National Road N7, Mendoza Province, Argentina

This project was carried out with the collaboration of the Group Risk from the University of Lausanne and the Argentinean Geological Survey (SEGEMAR). The main goals of this project are:

  1. Identification of deep-seated gravitational slope deformation and structures displacements by advanced differential SAR Interferometry (PS and SBAS approaches).
  2. Rockfall hazard mapping: detection of source areas by quantitative DEM analysis (Loye et al 2009) and estimation of propagation zones by 3D numerical modeling.
  3. Debris Flow susceptibility mapping (source areas and propagation zones) by an energy-controlled numerical model (Horton et al., 2008).
  4. Snow avalanche susceptibility mapping (source areas and propagation zones) with Flow-R.
  5. Field investigations along the road N7: detailed studies on identified hotspots by the regional mapping and the knowledge of the Geological Survey of Argentina.

Main findings of the project can be found here:

Baumann, V., Jaboyedoff, M, Oppikoffer, T, y Altobelli S. 2006. Potenciales caídas de rocas determinadas con el método Conefall para el área de Puente del Inca., S. IGRM-SEGEMAR y IGAR-FGSE. En Estudio Geocientífico aplicado al ordenamiento territorial en Puente del Inca, provincia de Mendoza, Argentina. SEGEMAR (Servicio Geológico y Minero Argentino) y MAP (Multinacional Andean Project), Anexo I, Buenos Aires.

Baumann, V., Wick E., Derron M.H., Horton P., Jaboyedoff  M., Rosas M. y Marengo H., 2011. Cartografía de la susceptibilidad  a las avalanchas de nieve a lo largo de la ruta nacional 7 En: Actas del XVIII Congreso Geológico Argentino (Eds. Leanza, Franchini, Impiccini, Pettinari, Sigismondi, Pons y Tunik), p. 345. Neuquén, Argentina.

Baumann, V., Wick, E., Horton P. y M. Jaboyedoff,  2011. Debris flow susceptibility mapping at a regional scale along the National Road N7, Argentina. Pan-Am CGS Geotechnical Conference 2011, Toronto.

Wick, E., Baumann, V. and Jaboyedoff, M., 2010. Brief Communication: Report on the impact of the 27 February 2010 earthquake (Chile, Mw 8.8) on rockfalls at far distance, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 10: 1989-1993.

Wick, E., Baumann, V., Favre-Bulle, G.,Jaboyedoff, M., Loye, A., Marengo, H., and Rosas, M. 2010. Flujos de detritos recientes en la Cordillera Frontal de Mendoza: un ejemplo de riesgo natural en la Ruta 7. Revista de la Asociación Geológica Argentina.

Baumann, V., Favre-Bulle, G., Oppikofer, T. , Altobelli, S., Rosas, M. , Jaboyedoff, M. , Hermanns, R. , Coppolecchia, M. ,  y Fauqué, L., 2008. Estudio de las caídas de rocas sobre la ruta Nacional N°7, en las áreas de Polvaredas y Puente del inca (Mendoza) usando un modelo digital del terreno. In: Zappettini et al. (eds) XVII Congreso Geológico Argentino – Acta, Tomo I, p. 259-260.

The project is funded by the Group Risk from the CRET Institute (University of Lausanne).


Sustainable land management in mountain regions of Bolivia and Nepal in the context of outmigration, climate change and disaster risk reduction

This project was carried out at the University of Lausanne, in collaboration with: University of Bern-Centre for Development and environment; University of Neuchatel-Institute of Geography; International Union for Conservation of Nature; South Asia Regional Coordination Office-National Centre of Competence in Research; Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation; and Agroecología Universidad de Cochabamba.

In addition to poverty, food security and unsustainable land management practices, climate change and extreme hazard events are expected to place additional strains on the sustainable management of natural resources. Migration from mountain areas is already on the rise leaving behind women, children and elderly to deal with adapting to changing climate conditions alongside managing daily life: agricultural practices, maintaining terraces, irrigation canals, stabilizing slopes, etc. Although many studies have focused on migration from mountains to urban areas, few studies have analyzed the consequences of changing mountain demographics on land management.

Unsustainable livelihood strategies and land use management can, in turn, reduce access to resources, increase environmental degradation and intensification of hazard events, especially in fragile environments such as mountains. The concept of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) is the most promising response to land degradation that has emerged in the past two decades. It addresses technical and ecological aspects as well as economic and socio-cultural dimensions. Effective and sustainable natural resource management depends on suitable technologies and associated implementation approaches, and on flexibility and responsiveness to changing complex ecological and socio-economic environments.

This project focuses on the issues related to the “left behinds” and those “half-families” who either choose or are forced to stay in their place of origin, and how to make livelihoods options more sustainable and resilient. The goal is to explore the interface between people and mountain dynamics under a context of climate change in order to develop policy recommendations for land management and livelihood strategies, disaster risk reduction and implementation of climate adaptation plans. This trans-disciplinary approach which combines social and physical sciences, will address the following questions: How is land management in mountains being affected by three main factors: migration, climate change (temperature and rainfall patterns) and hazard events. How to increase the resilience of mountain populations facing such issues? Which measures are needed to increase the resilience of livelihoods and land management practices?

For this comparative study, two pilot areas (Quillacollo District, Cochabamba department) in Bolivia and Nepal (Dhankuta District) were selected.

The results of our study will be used to develop practical tools for guiding decisions on promising sustainable land management practices for local land management experts, disaster risk and water managers, local NGOs and policy makers in order to effectively support female-headed households and other land users and finally lead to more sustainable livelihood outcomes.

Funded by: Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS).

Rockfall susceptibility mapping

Advanced Susceptibility Mapping for Natural Hazards in the Swiss Alpine Valley of Bagnes

Alpine municipalities are exposed to numerous natural hazards, such as snow avalanches, rockfalls, landslides and debris flows. The Bagnes and Vollèges municipalities in Valais (Switzerland) lie between 600 m and 4200 m m.s.l. with an area of 300 km2. The anthropization is rapid because of the fast growing ski resort of Verbier. In such situation the municipalities needs to have global overview of the natural hazards for landplaning purpose and decision making. The susceptibility mapping at regional scale allows the detection of the areas that are exposed to natural hazards, without considering the intensity and the frequency of the phenomena.

The aim of this study is to provide susceptibility maps at 1:25’000 for the following natural hazards: landslides, shallow landslides, rockfalls, debris flows, snow avalanches, flooding and river overflowing.

The present method was first developed for the Canton of Vaud (2’800 km2). Because it is applied to a smaller area, more numerical models on High Resolution DEM and field investigations were performed. In addition historical event were included in the study.

  1. The landslide mapping identifies deep-seated slope gravitational deformations, landslides and shallow landslides. It is based on the observations of geomorphological criteria on HR-EM, orthophotos and field work. Finally, the activity of each landslide is described by the knowledge of local guides.
  2. The shallow landslide susceptibility mapping is realized thanks to the software SInMap, calculating Security Factor (FS) and Stability Index (SI) according to the land use, the topography and the climatic conditions. The model is calibrated on the basis of the 67 shallow landslides already identified for the first map.
  3. The rockfall susceptibility mapping is a two steps process. First, the potential source areas of blocks are detected using a statistical analysis of the slope angle distribution, including external knowledge on the geology and land cover. Then the run-out is assessed with numerical methods based on the shallow angle method (software Conefall) and on an energy-based run-out calculation (software Flow-R).
  4. The debris flow susceptibility mapping is based on Flow-R to map debris flow sources and spreading. Slope, flow accumulation, contributive surfaces, plan curvature, geological and land use dataset are used to detect the source areas. The spreading is simulated by a multiple flow algorithm (rule the path that the debris flow will follow) coupled to a run-out distance calculation (energy-based).
  5. The snow avalanches susceptibility mapping is again based on Flow-R, to map sources areas and spreading. Slope, altitude, land use and one minimum surface are needed to detect the sources areas. The spreading is simulated with the “Perla” methodology using Flow-R. A second simulation of the spreading with RAS is performed by means of the alpha-beta methodology.
  6. Regarding to the river overflowing along the Dranse de Bagnes, the hotspots which could create blockages (bridges, pipes, etc.) are identified on the field. The propagations of the overflowing are simulated with Flow-R from the spots recognized earlier.

Finally, results show good concordances with past events and the knowledge of the local geologist and guides. The susceptibility maps will help the decision-makers of the Bagnes valley to prioritize area of interest for the creation of more expensive hazard maps.

For more information, please read Jaboyedoff M., Choffet M., Derron M.-H., Horton P., Loye A., Longchamp C., Mazotti B., Michoud C. and Pedrazzini A.: Preliminary slope mass movements susceptibility mapping using DEM and LiDAR DEM. In: Terrigenous Mass Mouvements, Pradhan and Buchroithner (Eds.), Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 109-170, 2012

Featured image: rockfall susceptibility mapping (hillshade: copyright swisstopo)

SafeLand – Living with landslide risk in Europe

SafeLand was a Large-scale integrating Collaborative research project funded by the The Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7) of the European Commission. The project team, composed of 27 institutions from 13 European countries, was coordinated by Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI).

SafeLand aimed at developing generic quantitative risk assessment and management tools and strategies for landslides at local, regional, European scales. It also established the baseline for the risk associated with landslides in Europe, and improved our ability to forecast landslide and detect hazard and risk zones.

During this 3-years project, our group mainly contributed to the following deliverables:

  • D 1.6: Analysis of landslides triggered by anthropogenic factors in Europe
  • D 2.10: Identification of landslide hazard and risk “hotspots” in Europe
  • D 4.1: Review of Techniques for Landslide Detection, Fast Characterization, Rapid Mapping and Long-Term Monitoring (as Editor)
  • D 4.4: Guidelines for the selection of appropriate remote sensing technologies for monitoring different types of landslides
  • D 4.8: Guidelines for landslide monitoring and early warning systems in Europe – Design and required technology
  • D 5.1: Compendium of tested and innovative structural, non-structural and risk-transfer mitigation measures for different landslide types

All deliverables and more information about the SafeLand project can be found on

Featured image: Landslide in Namsos, Norway (copyright SafeLand)

Flow-R (debris-flows assessment at a regional scale)

Flow-R is a distributed empirical model for regional susceptibility assessments of debris flows, developed at the University of Lausanne. It was successfully applied to different case studies in various countries.

The model was also found relevant to assess other natural hazards such as rockfall or snow avalanches. It allows for automatic source area delineation and for the assessment of the propagation extent. The choices of the datasets and the algorithms are open to the user, which makes it compliant for various applications and dataset availability.

It is available free of charge under

Statistical precipitation forecasting for the Minerve project

The upper Rhone catchment is sometimes subject to heavy precipitation that can eventually result in floods. The MINERVE project, to which this work belongs, aims at providing tools for flood forecasting and management. For this purpose, actions can be undertaken on dam storage, but this requires forecasting precipitation accurately days beforehand. This is currently done by the numerical weather prediction model of MétéoSuisse. However, due to large uncertainties in the forecasting of extreme events, it was decided that a parallel forecast based on a statistical approach could complement the information available.

Therefore, we adapted a technique of statistical precipitation forecasting, namely the analogue method, to the alpine context of our catchment. Several parameterizations of the method have been documented and calibrated.

A substantial part of this study was devoted to programming a forecasting software, which was called Atmoswing. It is designed to process automatically forecasts by means of the analogue method, and to provide a tool for visualizing the results on maps and graphs. It can process many different versions of the analogue method. The software has been operational since mid-2011, and has allowed us to confirm the interest of prediction by analogy.

As the method is applied here to a new geographical context, a large number of synoptic variables were evaluated. We then confirmed the relevance of the traditional two levels of analogy, which are related first to the atmospheric circulation, and next to the humidity flux, while making improvements to them. As a result, we created new parameterizations that have better forecasting skills than the reference methods considered so far. We also evaluated other improvements, such as the introduction of a shifting time window to find better synoptic analogues at other hours of the day, which show some potential. A 6-hourly time step forecast has been evaluated and was found to bring useful information on precipitation characteristics.

Finally, we introduced a technique of global optimization: genetic algorithms. These were found to be able to calibrate the analogue method by considering jointly all parameters of the different analogy levels. With that kind of tool we can approach an objectively optimal parameterization.

As the choice of atmospheric levels and time windows is automated, this technique can result in a gain of time, even if it is relatively demanding in calculations. Thus we were able to improve the analogue method, and to add new degrees of freedom.