business applications

Improved Alpine Avalanche Forecast Service

  • ActivityFeasibility Study
  • Closing date07 February 2014

The objective of this IAP (ARTES element 20) Feasibility Study is to assess the technical feasibility and commercial viability of space based services improving the forecasting of avalanches and associated warning services at regional and local level. Snow avalanches threaten public and private goods like buildings and transport infrastructure and cause about 100 deadly accidents in Alpine regions every winter season.

Feasibility Study

Regional warnings and danger levels are the reference for the installation of local preventive measures and warnings. Mechanical prevention and protection techniques can reduce fatalities and protect villages and infrastructures. For these measures and warnings to be effective, it is necessary to make adequate risk estimates. Avalanche simulation models are important tools in hazard analysis. Accurate avalanche prediction is based on current information (weather, snowpack conditions, terrain) together with historical knowledge. Field measurements and avalanche reports are necessary for better real-time prediction and for model validation.

The primary user community for improved alpine avalanche warning services is situated in the national and regional institutional domain. Governmental organisations within the Alpine countries operate avalanche related services, often in close co-operation with local parties. End-users are e.g. municipalities, infrastructure operators, ski-resorts and ski-event organizers.

The study aims at integrating and improving services that collect, process and distribute regional, local and in-situ information on avalanches, snow accumulation, snow profiles, snow characteristics and weather. This in order to produce more accurate, more detailed, and/or at lower cost avalanche danger maps, warnings and short term prognoses.

It is expected that space assets (Earth Observation, Satellite Navigation, Satellite Communication) are able to improve the situational awareness and increase the predictability of avalanches:

  • Earth Observation, to identify and characterize actual avalanches that have taken place, to map snow cover and to complement in-situ measurements of snow cover dynamics and possibly to improve the knowledge of critical parameters such as snow surface temperature and wetness, and the snow water equivalent.
  • Satellite Navigation for geo-referencing of the area of interest and of the in-situ measurements, to track the field survey teams and, possibly, to perform direct snow height measurements.
  • Satellite Communication, depending on the availability of terrestrial networks, to provide automated data transmission from weather stations and data loggers, or to assist human operators.

These space capabilities need to be integrated with existing capabilities of the relevant actors to provide usable and cost efficient support. The study content will include as tasks: stakeholder / user consolidation, refinement of user requirements, state of the art analysis, service definition, system definition, proof of concept, viability analysis, and implementation roadmap.

For More Information

Information on the call for proposals has been published on ESA’s Electronic Mail Invitation to Tendering System, EMITS (http://emits.esa.int), under the reference AO 7213 (under “Open Invitations to Tender”). The applicable tender solicitation package can be downloaded by registered users under this 'Announcement of Opportunity' (AO). This specific call is open for applications until 20th September 2012. 'Entity Registration' is possible on the same website.