There's No Calm After The Storm - PhMuseum

There's No Calm After The Storm

Matteo De Mayda

2019 - Ongoing

Belluno, Veneto, Italy; Udine, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy; Padova, Veneto, Italy; Agordo, Veneto, Italy; Roana, Veneto, Italy

Between the 26th and the 30th of October 2018, an extreme weather event stormed Italy, hitting with unprecedented violence the Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. On the night of October 29th, in particular, the incessant heavy rain caused the mountain creeks to flood and wind blowing from the South-east at up to 200 km/h tore down approximately 14 million trees in some valleys of the Dolomites and the Prealps.

More than two years later, the emergency is not over and the consequences of Storm Vaia are still tangible. Collecting the fallen trees is a complex operation that requires experience and resources, so many of them are still on the ground. Their wood is feeding ground for the Ips typographus, a parasite beetle that could easily spill from the trees on the ground to those that are still standing, potentially destroying six times as much forest as the storm did. Furthemore, the fallen trees no longer represent a protection against landslides and avalanches, and upset riverbeds are no longer able to contain and channel the water. As if this wasn’t enough, the economy of these mountain communities is struggling: the price of wood has plummeted and many tourist activities have been temporarily closed.

Mixing archive photography and reportage, satellite and microscope imagery, first-hand accounts and scientific theories, this project aims to tell the story of Vaia. Conceived when the emergency was already over and developed over the course of more than a year, it analyzes what has happened with the time to ponder causes, responsibilities, consequences, opportunities and future outlooks, while raising awareness about climate change.

The work was born in collaboration with the TESAF and DAFNAE departments at the University of Padua.

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  • A tree is transported by helicopter to clear one of the paths in Digonera (Belluno, Italy), one of the most affected areas by the “Vaia” storm.

    In October 2018, North-eastern Italy was hit by a strong atmospheric depression called "Vaia". Powerful gusts of wind reached peaks of over 200 km/h causing millions of trees to crash to the ground and resulting in the destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of alpine coniferous forests. Scholars agree in attributing responsibility to the ongoing climate emergency and, in particular, to the progressive raise of water temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea.

    The storm had unprecedented consequences, with more than 8 million cubic meters of trees damaged and the sudden reduction of ecosystem services related to forests, including protection against landslides, avalanches, fires and floods. While the local communities work towards restoring the ecosystem as soon as possible, Italian scholars believe that extreme weather events like Vaia are likely to be more frequent in the future.

  • The first tests with dynamite to verify the possibility of clearing the ground of stumps and debris through explosions. Asiago plateau, Roana (Vicenza, Italy)

    In October 2018, North-eastern Italy was hit by a strong atmospheric depression called "Vaia". Powerful gusts of wind reached peaks of over 200 km/h causing millions of trees to crash to the ground and resulting in the destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of alpine coniferous forests. Scholars agree in attributing responsibility to the ongoing climate emergency and, in particular, to the progressive raise of water temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea.

    The storm had unprecedented consequences, with more than 8 million cubic meters of trees damaged and the sudden reduction of ecosystem services related to forests, including protection against landslides, avalanches, fires and floods. While the local communities work towards restoring the ecosystem as soon as possible, Italian scholars believe that extreme weather events like Vaia are likely to be more frequent in the future.

  • A specimen of Ips typographus photographed under the microscope.

    The trees on the ground are designated victims for the Ips typographus, a parasite beetle that feeds on the European spruce’s wood, normally from trees that are either dead or about to die.
    At first sight it can look innocuous: it’s 5 millimeters long, of cylindrical shape and brown color, with yellow and orange hues. Yet, if not confronted timely, the Ips typographus can move from dead trees to those that are still standing, jeopardising the same existence of a forest. Preventing
    this from happening is one of the main challenges that researchers and communities are currently working on.

  • The signs of the Ips typographus on the trees.

    The trees on the ground are designated victims for the Ips typographus, a parasite beetle that feeds on the European spruce’s wood, normally from trees that are either dead or about to die.
    At first sight it can look innocuous: it’s 5 millimeters long, of cylindrical shape and brown color, with yellow and orange hues. Yet, if not confronted timely, the Ips typographus can move from dead trees to those that are still standing, jeopardising the same existence of a forest. Preventing this from happening is one of the main challenges that researchers and communities are currently working on.

  • Aerial image made with LIDAR technology, in which the sections of forest felled by Vaia Storm are recognizable by the purple color.

    Vaia damages around 8,5 million cubic meters of trees, the equivalent of 285,000 lorries full of logs. It’s the event with the largest impact on forest ecosystems ever occurred in Italy.

    A disaster that the University of Padua’s Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry (TESAF) is trying to quantify and locate through state-of-the-art technologies.

  • Livinè, Municipality of Livinallongo del Col di Lana, Belluno (Italy).

    29th of October 2018. A strong wind coming from the South East starts blowing, sneaking into some valleys of Trentino, Veneto and Friuli.

    It’s an unprecedented storm - later classified as a hurricane - that tears down trees and unroof houses. The meteorological institute of the Free University of Berlin randomly names
    it Vaia after German manager Vaia Jakobs, whose brother invested 200 euros to gift her the possibility of assigning her own name to a low pressure weather event.

  • Luca Deganutti, researcher at the University of Padua, in the Pramosio Forest (Udine), where the Ips typographus has attacked some marginal plants. The Ips is a parasite beetle that could easily spill from the trees on the ground to those that are still standing, potentially destroying six times as much forest as the storm did.

    This site served as a reference for DAFNAE to evaluate the validity and effectiveness of the Push & Pull technique, a technique for protecting marginal plants.

  • Trees reported as being infested by the Ips typographus.

    The trees on the ground are designated victims for the Ips typographus, a parasite beetle that feeds on the European spruce’s wood, normally from trees that are either dead or about to die.

    At first sight it can look innocuous: it’s 5 millimeters long, of cylindrical shape and brown color, with yellow and orange hues. Yet, if not confronted timely, the Ips typographus can move from dead trees to those that are still standing, jeopardising the same existence of a forest. Preventing this from happening is one of the main challenges that researchers and communities are currently working on.

  • The first tests with dynamite to verify the possibility of breaking up the stumps through explosions. Asiago plateau, Roana (Vicenza).

    What to do with the fallen trees? Collecting them is a complex and costly operation, especially on the steepest crests. Furthermore, even when they are on the ground they constitute a natural protection against landslides and avalanches, so that streets and villages can be safe while artificial barriers are being built. For these reasons, some maintain that they should be left where they are.
    Still, others think that the fallen trees spoil the landscape
    of its beauty, besides becoming feeding ground for the Ips typographus. Once collected, the fallen trees could also be sold, giving a boost to the local economy, which suffered greatly from the destruction of the forest and the consequent plummet of the wood price.

  • One of the landslides that hit the Provincial 251 in Val di Zoldo, Belluno, on December 5, 2020.

    Missing trees, shaken ground. The consequences of Vaia expose the community to another deadly threat: avalanches and landslides.

    The Avalanche Center of Arabba (Belluno) identified more than 90 sites where an avalanche could critically harm houses, villages and municipal roads. The municipalities implemented special Civil Protection Plans that rank the level of risk of each area based on snow depths on the ground and expected snowfalls.

  • One of the landslides that hit the Provincial 251 in Val di Zoldo, Belluno, on December 5, 2020.

    Missing trees, shaken ground. The consequences of Vaia expose the community to another deadly threat: avalanches and landslides.

    The Avalanche Center of Arabba (Belluno) identified more than 90 sites where an avalanche could critically harm houses, villages and municipal roads. The municipalities implemented special Civil Protection Plans that rank the level of risk of each area based on snow depths on the ground and expected snowfalls.

  • The Dolomites are the favourite destination for million of tourists. Every year they come to this dream mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1009, to ski and hike in the woods. Everybody loves them, but who can go beyond the postcard?

    Here a postcard of some tourist highlights of the Agordo area, in the Dolomites, published between the Fifties and the Nineties. Today, local communities analyse postcards like these to compare today’s landscape with the one from decades ago, thus evaluating the loss of forest caused by Vaia Storm.

  • The Dolomites are the favourite destination for million of tourists. Every year they come to this dream mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1009, to ski and hike in the woods. Everybody loves them, but who can go beyond the postcard?

    Here a postcard of some tourist highlights of the Agordo area, in the Dolomites, published between the Fifties and the Nineties. Today, local communities analyse postcards like these to compare today’s landscape with the one from decades ago, thus evaluating the loss of forest caused by Vaia Storm.

  • Sottoguda, Rocca Pietore. The avalanche risk has increased due to the lack of standing trees.

    The Avalanche Center of Arabba (Belluno) identified more than 90 sites where an avalanche could critically harm houses, villages and municipal roads. The municipalities implemented special Civil Protection Plans that rank the level of risk of each area based on snow depths on the ground and expected snowfalls.

  • Abramo Zoppe, takes care of the transport of fallen logs from the wood to the sawmill. Rocca Pietore (Belluno).

    What to do with the fallen trees? Collecting them is a complex and costly operation, especially on the steepest crests. Furthermore, even when they are on the ground they constitute a natural protection against landslides and avalanches, so that streets and villages can be safe while artificial barriers are being built. For these reasons, some maintain that they should be left where they are.
    Still, others think that the fallen trees spoil the landscape
    of its beauty, besides becoming feeding ground for the Ips typographus. Once collected, the fallen trees could also be sold, giving a boost to the local economy, which suffered greatly from the destruction of the forest and the consequent plummet of the wood price.

  • ARPAV - Avalanche Center of Arabba.

    Missing trees, shaken ground. The consequences of Vaia expose the community to another deadly threat: avalanches and landslides.

    The Avalanche Center of Arabba (Belluno) identified more than 90 sites where an avalanche could critically harm houses, villages and municipal roads. The municipalities implemented special Civil Protection Plans that rank the level of risk of each area based on snow depths on the ground and expected snowfalls.

  • Livinnalongo del Col di Lana, risk thresholds developed by the ARPAV Department of Arabba.


    The Avalanche Center of Arabba (Belluno) identified more than 90 sites where an avalanche could critically harm houses, villages and municipal roads. The municipalities implemented special Civil Protection Plans that rank the level of risk of each area based on snow depths on the ground and expected snowfalls.

  • Epiphany Celebrations in Àgordo, Belluno, one of the most affected areas by the Vaia storm.

    Whatever happens, the forest will go back to how it was in the next twenty years. But what will happen to the economy of this area, hit by a damage that was estimated at 2.8 billion euros?
    Regional, national and European funds have already financed the rebuilding of infrastructures and supported individuals and entrepreneurs, contributing to get the community back on its feet. Besides them, a series of self-initiated project was born, with the goal of sewing together the past and the future, building a new community ethos on the debris that the storm left behind.


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