ABSTRACT

The instrumental monitoring of torrential catchments is a fundamental research task that provides necessary information to improve our understanding of the mechanisms of debris flows. While most monitoring sites include meteorological sensors and analyze the critical rainfall conditions, very few contain soil moisture measurements. In our monitoring site, the Rebaixader catchment, 11 debris flows and 24 debris floods were detected during the last 9 years. Herein, the initiation mechanisms of these torrential flows were analyzed, focusing on the critical rainfall conditions and the soil water dynamics. Comparing the temporal distribution of both rainfall episodes and torrential flows, the Kernel density plots showed maximum values for rainfalls at the beginning of June, while the peak for torrential flows is on July 20. Thus, the antecedent rainfall, and especially the soil moisture conditions, may influence the triggering of torrential flows. In a second step, a new updated rainfall threshold was proposed that included total rainfall duration and mean intensity. The analysis of soil moisture data was more complicated, and no clear trends were observed in the data set. Therefore, additional data have to be recorded in order to quantitatively analyze the role of soil moisture on the triggering of torrential flows and for the definition of thresholds. Some preliminary results show that the soil moisture at the beginning of a rainfall event affects the maximum increase of soil moisture, while a slight trend was visible comparing the initial soil moisture with the necessary rainfall amount to trigger a torrential flow.

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