Debris Flow Velocity Estimation Methods for Natural Hazard Assessment

by Douglas Hamilton,
Shucheng Zhang,
Robert C. MacArthur,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Hydraulic Engineering


Debris flows are a special category of fluid and mass flow phenomena in which natural runoff entrains extremely high concentrations of sediment. The sediment-water mixture has properties that are significantly different from clear water and are potentially much more damaging. Debris flows occur as natural hazards in many parts of the world, particularly in disturbed watersheds such as those experiencing volcanic activity or those recently burned by fire. The higher velocity and unit weight associated with debris flows can result in damage much more severe than an equivalent clear water flood. This paper presents a practical method to determine the potential velocity of debris flow for a given set of rheological and geometric conditions. The method can be used quickly in the field to determine the capacity of natural or man-made channels to convey debris flows. Once the channel capacity is determined, areas that are prone to debris flow damage can be more readily identified and appropriate mitigation measures can be prescribed.

Subject Headings: Channel flow | Fluid flow | Debris | Solids flow | Fluid velocity | Natural disasters | Flow measurement | Water flow

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