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Debris flows as a factor of hillslope evolution controlled by a continuous or a pulse process?

By
Eric Bardou
Eric Bardou
Institute of Geomatics and Risks Analysis, Faculty of Geosciences and Environment, University of Lausanne
,
CH-1015 Lausanne
,
Switzerland (e-mail:
eric.bardou@idealp.ch)
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Michel Jaboyedoff
Michel Jaboyedoff
Institute of Geomatics and Risks Analysis, Faculty of Geosciences and Environment, University of Lausanne
,
CH-1015 Lausanne
,
Switzerland (e-mail:
eric.bardou@idealp.ch)
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Published:
January 01, 2008

Abstract

Flood effectiveness observations imply that two families of processes describe the formation of debris flow volume. One is related to the rainfall–erosion relationship, and can be seen as a gradual process, and one is related to additional geological/geotechnical events, those named hereafter extraordinary events. In order to discuss the hypothesis of coexistence of two modes of volume formation, some methodologies are applied. Firstly, classical approaches consisting in relating volume to catchments characteristics are considered. These approaches raise questions about the quality of the data rather than providing answers concerning the controlling processes. Secondly, we consider statistical approaches (cumulative number of events distribution and cluster analysis) and these suggest the possibility of having two distinct families of processes. However the quantitative evaluation of the threshold differs from the one that could be obtained from the first approach, but they all agree in the sense of the coexistence of two families of events. Thirdly, a conceptual model is built exploring how and why debris flow volume in alpine catchments changes with time. Depending on the initial condition (sediment production), the model shows that large debris flows (i.e. with important volume) are observed in the beginning period, before a steady-state is reached. During this second period debris flow volume such as is observed in the beginning period is not observed again. Integrating the results of the three approaches, two case studies are presented showing: (1) the possibility to observe in a catchment large volumes that will never happen again due to a drastic decrease in the sediment availability, supporting its difference from gradual erosion processes; (2) that following a rejuvenation of the sediment storage (by a rock avalanche) the magnitude–frequency relationship of a torrent can be differentiated into two phases, the beginning one with large and frequent debris flow and a later one with debris flow less intense and frequent, supporting the results of the conceptual model. Although the results obtained cannot identify a clear threshold between the two families of processes, they show that some debris flows can be seen as pulse of sediment differing from that expected from gradual erosion.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Landscape Evolution: Denudation, Climate and Tectonics over Different Time and Space Scales

K. Gallagher
K. Gallagher
Université de Rennes
,
France
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S. J. Jones
S. J. Jones
University of Durham
,
UK
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J. Wainwright
J. Wainwright
University of Sheffield
,
UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
296
ISBN electronic:
9781862395442
Publication date:
January 01, 2008

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