Dating and interpretation of debris flows by geologic and botanical methods at Whitney Creek Gorge, Mount Shasta, California
Published:January 01, 1987
W. R. Osterkamp, C. R. Hupp, 1987. "Dating and interpretation of debris flows by geologic and botanical methods at Whitney Creek Gorge, Mount Shasta, California", Debris Flows/Avalanches, John E. Costa, Gerald F. Wieczorek
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Debris flow activity in the Whitney Creek basin of Mount Shasta is caused by incisement of soft pyroclastic beds in upper fan areas, and is the dominant late Holocene geomorphic process. A variety of geologic and botanical techniques permit the dating of many debris flows. These methods aid in the interpretation of recent denudation rates and late Quaternary geomorphic changes at Whitney Creek gorge. Geologic techniques used for dating and interpreting debris flows included carbon-isotope analyses of wood and charcoal samples, stratigraphic relations, analysis of aerial photography, and particle-size analyses of sediment deposits. Relatively recent debris flows were dated dendrochronologically using tree ages, eccentric growth-ring patterns following tree tilting by a debris flow, suppression and release sequences, and corrasion scars caused by debris flow impacts on tree trunks. Results indicate intense debris flow activity along upper Whitney Creek during recent centuries; a minimum of 10 debris flows are identified for the last 420 yr.
Sediment yields and denudation rates estimated from debris flow frequency and volume data suggest that activity has been most intense in the last five centuries. Sediment thicknesses on lower parts of the Whitney Creek fan appear sufficient to account only for deposition rates during late Holocene time. If present rates of deposition had prevailed throughout Holocene time, the average thicknesses of the lower fan deposits would be at least eight times greater than they are.
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Debris flows and debris avalanches are among the most dangerous and destructive natural hazards that affect humans. They claim hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in property loss every year. The past two decades have produced much new scientific and engineering understanding of these occurrences and have led to new methods for mitigating the loss of life and property. These 17 papers pull together much of this recent research and present it in these categories: (1) process, (2) recognition, and (3) mitigation. Much of this work results from cooperative efforts between GSA's Engineering Geology Division and Quaternary Geology & Geomorphology Division.