ABSTRACT

Substantial advances have been achieved in various aspects of debris-flow hazard assessments over the past decade. These advances include sophisticated ways to date previous events, two- and three-dimensional runout models including multi-phase flows and debris entrainment options, and applications of extreme value statistics to assemble frequency–magnitude analyses. Pertinent questions have remained the same: How often, how big, how fast, how deep, how intense, and how far? Similarly, although major life loss attributable to debris flows can often, but not always, be avoided in developed nations, debris flows remain one of the principal geophysical killers in mountainous terrains. Substantial differences in debris-flow hazard persist between nations. Some rely on a design magnitude associated with a specific return period; others use relationships between intensity and frequency; and some allow for, but do not mandate, in-depth quantitative risk assessments. Differences exist in the management of debris-flow risks, from highly sophisticated and nation-wide applied protocols to retroaction in which catastrophic debris flows occur before they are considered for mitigation. Two factors conspire to challenge future generations of debris-flow researchers, practitioners, and decision makers: Population growth and climate change, which are increasingly manifested by augmenting hydroclimatic extremes. While researchers will undoubtedly finesse future remote sensing, dating, and runout techniques and models, practitioners will need to focus on translating those advances into practical cost-efficient tools and integrating those tools into long-term debris-flow risk management.

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