Evaluation of approaches to calculate debris-flow parameters for hazard assessment

Marcel Hürlimann, Dieter Rickenmann, Vicente Medina d, Allen Bateman



Many different runout prediction methods can be applied to estimate the mobility of future debris flows during hazard assessment. The present article reviews the empirical, analytical, simple flow routing and numerical techniques. All these techniques were applied to back-calculate a debris flow, which occurred in 1982 at La Guingueta catchment, in the Eastern Pyrenees. A sensitivity analysis of input parameters was carried out, while special attentionwas paid to the influence of rheological parameters.We used the Voellmy
fluid rheology for our analytical and numerical modelling, since this flow resistance law coincided best with field observations. The simulation results indicated that the “basal” friction coefficients rather affect the runout distance, while the “turbulence” terms mainly influence flow velocity. A comparison of the velocity computed on the fan showed that the analytical model calculated values similar to the numerical ones. The values of our rheological parameters calibrated at La Guingueta agree with data back-calculated for other
debris flows. Empirical relationships represent another method to estimate total runout distance. The results confirmed that they contain an important uncertainty and they are strictly valid only for the conditions, which were the basis for their development. With regards to the simple flow routing algorithm, this methods could satisfactorily simulate the total area affected by the 1982 debris flow, but it was not able to directly calculate total runout distance and velocity. Finally, a suggestion on how different runout prediction methods
can be applied to generate debris-flow hazard maps is presented. Taking into account the definition of hazard and intensity, the best choice would be to divide the resulting hazard maps into two types: “final hazard maps” and “preliminary hazard maps”. Only the use of numerical models provided final hazard maps, because they could incorporate different event magnitudes and they supplied output-values for intensity  calculation. In contrast, empirical relationships and flow routing algorithms, or a combination of both, could
be applied to create preliminary hazard maps. The present study only focussed on runout prediction methods. Other necessary tasks to complete the hazard assessment can be looked up in the “Guidelines for landslide susceptibility, hazard and risk zoning” included in this Special Issue.


Download: 2008-EG-01