Innovations and Scientific approach

  • Time dependent processes (forecasts)
  • Basic domains concerned
    • Earth Sciences: Geology, Geodynmics, Earth physics, Hydroglogy, Hydrogeology, Climatology, GIS, Geomorphology, Granular Physics, Modelling and Numerical analysis, Geostatitics, Forestry engineer
    • Civil engineering: Soil mechanics, Rock mechanics, Finite element analysis, Design of protection measures,…
    • Landplanning, Social Sciences
  • Imbricated approach
    • Geometry
    • Physic
    • Physicochemical
  • High scientific impact of the publications in the earth sciences domains (high publication impact)
  • Software development linked to GIS
    • Implementing new techniques (innovations)
  • Linking fundamental and applied researches
    • No overlap between academic researches on erosion and application


The purposes of such an international center are multidisciplinary, emphasizing research, scientific exchanges and education related to natural hazards and risks in mountainous areas in relation with relief changes. Scientific exchanges and interdisciplinarity are its original features. Its approach will be based on a new understanding of how to manage natural hazards and risks.

So far hazard surveys have been made by each discipline separately. They are based on the state of the system as it is perceived at the time of the survey, and on local modeling. Global models are missing and thus surveys are usually performed where disasters have already occurred. Surveys are seldom predictive. Mountainous areas should be studied as systems which are changing with the passing of time under the effect of climate (precipitations, temperature, sun, etc.) and under the effects of all erosion phenomena. Our goal is to develop a comprehensive model of all erosion phenomena and water flows which affect slopes and watersheds (such as landslides, river erosion, floods, permafrost, rock falls, earthquakes, mudslides, snow avalanches, etc.).

Susceptibility to various erosive factors and to floods will be estimated. What are the benefits of such an approach and in what way is it different from a more conventional one? Modeling makes it possible to rapidly update models, taking into account uncertainty linked to climate changes and water as a major factor governing relief changes. Furthermore several scenarios can be developed, and starting from present topographic relief the models can predict its future changes.

Modeling provides an estimation of catastrophic phenomena frequency, which leads top risk assessment through scenarios. Estimating frequency of events still remains a partially unsolved issue. Both economic and sociologic impacts will be examined.
Seismic hazards are also an important factor in relief changes: they are taken into account as well.

The study of snow avalanches (WSL) is not directly related to the present project, but it is indirectly, because the way the slope changes affect the vegetation cover and thus affects their protection against avalanches.

Modeling is based both on the analysis of the intrinsic features of hazards (permeability, rock types, morphologies, riverbank profiles, etc.) and on the impact of external factors such as precipitation, earthquakes, aquifer systems, etc.

Differences with other approaches

Methods of studying natural hazards require the studies to be completely redone when conditions change. The simultaneous consideration of all phenomena affecting slopes and watersheds makes it possible to obtain multi-hazard and multi-risk analysis, which is not so obvious using other approaches. The proposed scientific approach uses a global modeling of phenomena. In order to create models, it will be necessary to work in an interdisciplinary way. Such an approach as proposed here has only been possible since accurate digital documents were available and could be managed with geographic information systems (GIS).

The purpose of the center can be worded as follows: studying natural hazards taking into account external factors such as climate, by means of creating models involving erosion and surface and underground water circulation in all types of mountain slopes. Such an analysis is based on external factors such as climate.

This approach follows the principle of climate change adaptation. For that purpose the numerous groups of climate change studies will furnish the climatic models used as input for erosion models.

Our center is partially based upon the same principle as the “Institut des hautes études scientifiques de Bures-sur-Yvette (France) and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, such that both private and public funds will be required for fundamental research.