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Barbosa, Natalie; Leinauer, Johannes; Jubanski, Juilson; Dietze, Michael; Münzer, Ulrich; Siegert, Florian; Krautblatter, Michael (2024): Massive sediment pulses triggered by a multi-stage 130 000 m 3 alpine cliff fall (Hochvogel, DE–AT). Earth Surface Dynamics, 12 (1). pp. 249-269. ISSN 2196-632X

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Massive sediment pulses in catchments are a key alpine multi-risk component. Substantial sediment redistribution in alpine catchments frequently causes flooding, river erosion, and landsliding and affects infrastructure such as dam reservoirs as well as aquatic ecosystems and water quality. While systematic rock slope failure inventories have been collected in several countries, the subsequent cascading sediment redistribution is virtually unaccessed. For the first time, this contribution reports the massive sediment redistribution triggered by the multi-stage failure of more than 130 000 m3 from the Hochvogel dolomite peak during the summer of 2016. We applied change detection techniques to seven 3D-coregistered high-resolution true orthophotos and digital surface models (DSMs) obtained through digital aerial photogrammetry later optimized for precise volume calculation in steep terrain. The analysis of seismic information from surrounding stations revealed the temporal evolution of the cliff fall. We identified the proportional contribution of > 600 rockfall events (> 1 m3) from four rock slope catchments with different slope aspects and their volume estimates. In a sediment cascade approach, we evaluated erosion, transport, and deposition from the rock face to the upper channelized erosive debris flow channel, then to the widened dispersive debris flow channel, and finally to the outlet into the braided sediment-supercharged Jochbach river. We observe the decadal flux of more than 400 000 m3 of sediment, characterized by massive sediment waves that (i) exhibit reaction times of 0–4 years in response to a cliff fall sediment input and relaxation times beyond 10 years. The sediment waves (ii) manifest with faster response times of 0–2 years in the upper catchment and over 2 years in the lower catchments. The entire catchment (iii) undergoes a rapid shift from sedimentary (102–103 mm a−1) to massive erosive regimes (102 mm a−1) within single years, and the massive sediment redistribution (iv) shows limited dependency on rainfall frequency and intensity. This study provides generic information on spatial and temporal patterns of massive sediment pulses in highly sediment-charged alpine catchments.

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