Technical Guidance Document for the Assessment of Glacier and Permafrost Hazards in Mountain Regions:
Hazards relating to glaciers and permafrost are a threat to lives and livelihoods in many mountain regions. In view of rapid global warming and related changes in the mountain cryosphere, landscapes are evolving and new threats are emerging. Coupled with ongoing expansion of people and their infrastructure into high mountain valleys there is an increasing potential for societal losses and far-reaching disasters. Recognizing the need for a structured and comprehensive approach to hazard assessment underpinned by latest scientific understanding, GAPHAZ has produced a technical guidance document as a resource for international and national agencies, responsible authorities and private companies. This work was supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
Version 2017
Download document: [link pdf English version]

In 2018, this document has been translated to Spanish with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC): [link pdf Spanish version]
In 2020, this document has been translated to Russian with the support of World Bank and its Central Asia Water & Energy Program (CAWEP): [link pdf Russian version]


The GAPHAZ working group strongly recommends that the following general principles are among others considered when assessing hazards and risk associated with glaciers and permafrost in mountains:
Version 29.3.2007
(1) Global change

Climate change can induce disturbance in glacier and permafrost equilibrium and can shift hazard zones beyond historical limits. In many regions, human settlements and activities increasingly extend towards endangered zones increasing local vulnerability. As a result, historical data alone are not sufficient any more for hazard assessments and have to be combined with new observation and modelling approaches.

(2) Chain reactions and interactions

Glacier- and permafrost-related disasters often include a combination of processes and chain reactions. Hazard assessments therefore have to be integrative and consider such variety and interaction of processes.

(3) Monitoring
Due to the accelerated change of high-mountain environments, hazard assessments must be undertaken routinely and regularly, combined with appropriate monitoring.
(4) Integrative risk assessments
Integrative hazard assessments should be achieved by interdisciplinary cooperation of experts, and the application of modern observation and modelling techniques designed for such integrative approaches. Managing glacier and permafrost hazards requires risk assessments. For that purpose hazard assessments have to be combined with vulnerability assessments.
(5) Remote sensing
Modern space technologies enable initial estimation of hazard potentials to be performed by virtually everyone and everywhere, independent of political and geographical restrictions. This fundamental "democratisation" process related to high-mountain (and other) hazards involves a number of new opportunities, dangers and responsibilities, for the public, the authorities in charge, and the experts involved.
(6) Socio-economic context
The transfer and dissemination of expert hazard assessments to the authorities and to the public, and thus the efficiency of assessments, is to a large degree dependent on the socio-economic context and the hazard perception of the endangered population. Communication of results from glacier and permafrost hazard assessments should consider these circumstances.