06 Feb 2023
 | 06 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

A decrease in rockfall probability under climate change conditions in Germany

Katrin M. Nissen, Martina Wilde, Thomas M. Kreuzer, Annika Wohlers, Bodo Damm, and Uwe Ulbrich

Abstract. The effect of climate change on rockfall in the German low mountain regions is investigated following two different approaches. The first approach uses a logistic regression model that describes the combined effect of precipitation, freeze-thaw cycles and fissure water on rockfall probability. The climate change signal for past decades is analysed by applying the model to meteorological observations. The possible effect of climate change until the end of the century is explored by applying the statistical model to the output of a multi-model ensemble of 23 regional climate scenario simulations. It is found that the number of days per year exhibiting an above-average probability for rockfall has been mostly decreasing during the last decades. Statistical significance is, however, present only at few sites. A robust and statistically significant decrease can be seen in the RCP8.5 climate scenario simulations for Germany and neighbouring regions, locally falling below -10 % when comparing the last 30 years of the 20th century to the last 30 years of the 21st century. The most important factor determining the projected decrease in rockfall probability is a reduction in the number of freeze-thaw cycles expected under future climate conditions.

For the second approach four large-scale meteorological patterns that are associated with enhanced rockfall probability are identified from reanalysis data. The frequency of all four patterns exhibits a seasonal cycle that maximizes in the cold half of the year (winter/spring). Trends in the number of days that can be assigned to these patterns are determined both in meteorological reanalysis data and in climate simulations. In the reanalysis no statistically significant trend is found. For the future scenario simulations all climate models show a statistically significant decrease in the number of rockfall promoting weather situations.

Katrin M. Nissen et al.

Status: open (until 21 Apr 2023)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-94', Anonymous Referee #1, 01 Mar 2023 reply

Katrin M. Nissen et al.

Katrin M. Nissen et al.


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Short summary
The effect of climate change on rockfall probability in the German low mountain regions is investigated in observations and 23 different climate scenario simulation. Under a pessimistic greenhouse-gas scenario, the simulations suggest a decrease in rockfall probability. This reduction is mainly caused by a decrease in the number of freeze-thawing cycles due to higher atmospheric temperatures.