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Open AccessArticle

Bayesian Inference in Snow Avalanche Simulation with r.avaflow

Department of Natural Hazards, Austrian Research Centre for Forests (BFW), 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Planungsgemeinschaft, 39100 Bozen, Italy
Department of Engineering Science, University of Innsbruck (UIBK), 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Institute of Applied Geology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), 1180 Vienna, Austria
Department of Geography and Regional Research, University of Vienna, 1180 Vienna, Austria
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Geosciences 2020, 10(5), 191;
Received: 28 October 2019 / Revised: 17 April 2020 / Accepted: 15 May 2020 / Published: 20 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Snow Avalanche Dynamics)
Simulation tools for gravitational mass flows (e.g., avalanches, debris flows) are commonly used for research and applications in hazard assessment or mitigation planning. As a basis for a transparent and reproducible decision making process, associated uncertainties need to be identified in order to quantify and eventually communicate the associated variabilities of the results. Main sources of variabilities in the simulation results are associated with parameter variations arising from observation and model uncertainties. These are connected to the measurement inaccuracies or poor process understanding and the numerical model implementation. Probabilistic approaches provide various theoretical concepts to treat these uncertainties, but their direct application is not straightforward. To provide a comprehensive tool, introducing conditional runout probabilities for the decision making process we (i) introduce a mathematical framework based on well-established Bayesian concepts, (ii) develop a work flow that couples this framework to the existing simulation tool r.avaflow, and (iii) apply the work flow to two case studies, highlighting its application potential and limitations. The presented approach allows for back, forward and predictive calculations. Back calculations are used to determine parameter distributions, identifying and mapping the model, implementation and data uncertainties. These parameter distributions serve as a base for forward and predictive calculations, embedded in the probabilistic framework. The result variability is quantified in terms of conditional probabilities with respect to the observed data and the associated simulation and data uncertainties. To communicate the result variability the conditional probabilities are visualized, allowing to identify areas with large or small result variability. The conditional probabilities are particularly interesting for predictive avalanche simulations at locations with no prior information where visualization explicitly shows the result variabilities based on parameter distributions derived through back calculations from locations with well-documented observations. View Full-Text
Keywords: Bayes’ theorem; Metropolis–Hastings algorithm; probabilistic simulation; avalanche dynamics; r.avaflow Bayes’ theorem; Metropolis–Hastings algorithm; probabilistic simulation; avalanche dynamics; r.avaflow
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Fischer, J.-T.; Kofler, A.; Huber, A.; Fellin, W.; Mergili, M.; Oberguggenberger, M. Bayesian Inference in Snow Avalanche Simulation with r.avaflow. Geosciences 2020, 10, 191.

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