Characterization of alpine rockslides using statistical analysis of seismic signals



[1] Seismic data analysis is a powerful tool for remote characterization of rock slope failures. Here we develop quantitative estimates of fundamental rockslide properties (e.g., volume) based solely on data from an existing regional seismic network. We assembled a data set of twenty known rockslides in the central Alps (with volumes between 1,000 and 2,000,000 m3) and analyzed their corresponding seismograms. Common signal characteristics include emergent onsets, slowly decaying tails, and a triangular spectrogram shape. The main component of seismic energy is contained in frequencies below ∼3–4 Hz, while higher-frequency signals may be caused by block impacts. Location estimates were generated using automatic arrival time picks and resulted in a mean location error of 10.9 km. A linear relationship for the detection limit of a rockslide as a function of volume was identified for our seismic station network. To estimate rockslide volume, runout distance, drop height, potential energy, and Fahrböschung (angle of reach), we extracted five simple metrics from each seismogram: signal duration, peak value of the ground velocity envelope, velocity envelope area, risetime, and average ground velocity. Using multivariate linear regression, the combination of duration, peak envelope velocity, and envelope area best estimated event parameters, with r2 values ranging between 0.8 and 0.88. Three new rockslides were then used to validate our method, and volume, runout, drop height, and potential energy were estimated within the correct order of magnitude. When provided with a suitable data set of rockslide events, our method can be easily adapted to other regions and seismic networks.