Theodosios Kritikos - PhD Summary
Tectonically active mountain-front regions are highly dynamic and unstable environments. The natural processes responsible for their landscape evolution make the transitional geomorphology between the mountains and plains potentially hazardous to the increasing human developments and land use. Despite remarkable progress in natural hazard research over the last two decades communities located at mountain-front areas are still threatened by low probability - high consequence events which cannot be effectively predicted. This is due to the complexity of the dominant inter-dependent natural processes, as well as the inherent inability of current hazard assessment methods to accurately predict the location, magnitude and time of an extreme natural event. Additionally, economic, cultural and social factors often complicate even further the implementation of effective disaster management. Therefore, the emerging question is "how can effective and sustainable hazard mitigation at active mountain front regions be achieved, despite these difficulties?"
Using the uniquely active and developing environment of Western Southern Alps of New Zealand as study area, this research aims to develop a new approach in an effort to answer the above question. The concept of “safe” areas is introduced as an essential element of pre-event land use planning and a methodology for their assessment is developed. The methodology is based on the hypothesis that the identified geomorphic processes and their consequent potential hazards are inter-related components of a dynamic natural open system. Furthermore, an attempt is made to model the dominant geomorphic processes and their inter-dependent effects using GIS and remote sensing, and to develop hazard maps for primary events (earthquakes, landslides, floods) as well as consequently triggered phenomena (e.g. co-seismic landslides, landslide dam break floods etc). Finally, the results from the hazard assessments will be combined and processed in order to delineate relatively "safe" areas along Western Southern Alps as a step towards effective and sustainable hazard mitigation in highly dynamic environments.