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Modelling the role of material depletion, grain coarsening and revegetation in debris flow occurrences after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake

Domènech, Guillem, Fan, Xuanmei, Scaringi, Gianvito, van Asch, Theo W.J., Xu, Qiang, Huang, Runqiu and Hales, Tristram C. 2019. Modelling the role of material depletion, grain coarsening and revegetation in debris flow occurrences after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Engineering Geology 250 , pp. 34-44. 10.1016/j.enggeo.2019.01.010
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Abstract

A large amount of debris was generated by the co-seismic mass wasting associated with the 2008 Mw 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake. The abundance of this loose material along the slopes caused more frequent debris flows, triggered by less intense and/or shorter rainfalls. However, both the triggering rainfall and the debris flow frequency seem to have normalised progressively during the past decade. Although changes of rainfall thresholds for post-seismic debris flows were recorded after several major earthquakes, the factors controlling these changes remain poorly constrained. With the aid of a virtual experiment, we investigate the roles of material depletion, grain coarsening and revegetation of the co-seismic debris on the propagation and deposition of debris flows initiated by runoff, as well as their influence on the triggering rainfall thresholds. We employ a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based simulation of debris flow initiation by runoff erosion, which we first calibrate on the 14th August 2010 Hongchun gully event that occurred near the Wenchuan earthquake epicentre. We obtain, by investigating each of the aforementioned processes, changing critical rainfall intensity-duration thresholds for given debris flow runout distances. Grain coarsening appears to play a major role, which is consistent with published laboratory experiments, while material depletion and revegetation do not seem able to account alone for the actual quick decay of debris flow frequency. While the virtual experiment has proven useful in identifying the first-order controls on this decay, model improvements and verification over multiple catchments are needed to make the results useful in hazard assessments.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0013-7952
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 March 2019
Date of Acceptance: 12 January 2019
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 15:20
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/121055

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