RiCoLa: Detection and analysis of landslide-induced river course changes and lake formation

Landslides are among the most serious threats to human lives and infrastructure in mountain ranges worldwide. Beyond the direct hazard posed by the moving mass, landslides can initiate natural hazard cascades by damming rivers and initiating catastrophic flash floods and debris flows. Such long-range effects render even unwitnessed landslides occurring in remote areas significant. Critically, insufficient information exists on landslide occurrence and recurrence intervals, and thus the hazard potential of landslide hazard cascades, as well as possible prediction and prevention measures. This lack of information is mostly due to the remoteness of many mountain regions as well as the complex dynamics of natural hazard cascades, even so the hazard posed by landslide dam failures is often orders of magnitudes greater than that of the initial landslide event. Better understanding of landslide-river interaction is hence crucial to assess and predict resulting natural hazards.

The overall objective of RiCoLa is to develop novel methods to detect landslide-induced river course changes and lake formation using remote sensing data and to analyze the role of predisposing (e.g., lithology), preparatory (e.g., climate) and triggering (e.g., earthquakes) factors in the formation of landslide-induced hazard cascades. Based on a compiled geospatial database we aim to identify related hotspots in space and time to better understand the role of extreme events in the interaction of the hillslope and channel systems.

In the RiCoLa project we utilize an interdisciplinary approach to build a solid statistical base for evaluating and understanding landslide-induced river course changes and lake formation, as well as flood risk resulting from landslide dam breaches. The project is a) tailored for long-term monitoring to better understand the role of extreme events in the interaction of the hillslope and channel systems, b) directly promotes the scientific advance of early career researchers, and c) is well integrated into the international research agenda of the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) and Future Earth.