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PhD-Project P5 by Lena Katharina Schmidt (UP): Altered hydrological and sediment event dynamics in high alpine areas

Timescale: Oct. 2018– Sept. 2021


Prof. Dr. Axel Bronstert, University of Potsdam

assoz. Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Stefan Achleitner

Dr. Theresa Blume, GFZ Potsdam (Mentorin)


There are several indications that the hydrological flood regime and associated sediment fluxes in high alpine areas is in a transient state. I.e., rapidly rising runoff in such regional setting events (“high alpine flash floods”) may occur more frequent and/or stronger. In addition flooding events transporting high amount and concentration of sediment might increase. The hypothesis is that such events may increase in frequency and/or magnitude, because the occurrence of high intensity rainfall events in the high alpine regions might have increased and possibly also the magnitudes of snow melt events. Increased sediment concentrations may be linked to the uncovering of terrain formerly covered by glaciers. Those newly exposed base moraines contain loose sandy-loamy gravels and clayey-sands, which are highly susceptible to erosion during runoff events either by snow melt or by rainfall.

Therefore this project will conduct a combined data analysis of rainfall intensities, runoff events (both due to snow melt and rainfall) and sediment export (probably focussing on suspended sediments). We will try to identify the possible changes of those conditions and the mechanisms and interlinkages between flood runoff generation and sediment export in such regions.

Objectives and Methods

  • Data collection for selected catchments in high alpine (partly glaciated) catchments:
  • Rainfall (station data and radar data); discharge data, suspended sediment (turbidity)
  • data/trend analysis of changes in P, Q, S
  • data/trend attribution (changes in rainfall characteristics; glacial extend; hydrograph)
  • (potentially) scenario based prognosis of future development of Q- and S-events

Lena Katharina Schmidt is based at the research team “Hydrology & Climatology” of the University of Potsdam.