Field and laboratory analysis of the runout characteristics of hillslope debris flows in Switzerland
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Hillslope debris flows are unconfined flows that originate by shallow failures in unconsolidated material at steep slopes. In spite of their significant hazard for persons and infrastructure in mountainous regions, research on hillslope debris flows is rather scarce in comparison to other landslide types. This study focusses on the runout characteristics of hillslope debris flows applying two different approaches. First, detailed landslide inventories, which include field measurements of 548 slope failures that occurred during the last two decades in seven parts of Switzerland, were analysed. Second, laboratory tests were carried out to study the effect of the soil water content, grain-size distribution and mobilized volume on the runout behaviour of hillslope debris flows. Most of the failures in the field started as shallow translational slides at terrain slopes between 25° and 45° and involved volumes of some tens to a few hundred cubic meters. An analysis of the runout distance of 117 hillslope debris flows showed that they normally travelled some tens of meters, but sometimes the runout exceeded 300 m. A positive relation between volume and runout distance and between volume and affected area was observed, although there is considerable scatter in the data. The affected area of 63 hillslope debris flows ranged from ~ 100 to ~ 1500 m2. Based on the field data, a 7.5 m long laboratory hillslope was designed with a geometrical scale factor of 20. A total of 75 runs with volumes from 4 to 20 dm3, water contents from 18% to 38%, and four grain-size distributions were carried out. The laboratory tests revealed that water content is the dominant control, but also the clay content strongly influences the runout distance and the affected area. Even a small increase in water or clay content produces a considerably larger or smaller runout distance, respectively. In contrast, the influence of the volume on the runout was smaller, and a positive relation was observed between these two parameters. The field and laboratory results are in general agreement and consistent with the results of other studies. The results of this work improve the understanding of hillslope debris flows and may aid in the hazard assessments of these processes.
CitationHurlimann, M., McArdell, B.W., Rickli, C. Field and laboratory analysis of the runout characteristics of hillslope debris flows in Switzerland. "Geomorphology", Març 2015, vol. 232, p. 20-32.