Abstract

Many theoretical and laboratory studies have been undertaken to understand debris-flow processes and their associated hazards. However, complete and quantitative data sets from natural debris flows needed for confirmation of these results are limited. We used a novel combination of in situ measurements of debris-flow dynamics, video imagery, and pre- and postflow 2-cm-resolution digital terrain models to study a natural debris-flow event. Our field data constrain the initial and final reach morphology and key flow dynamics. The observed event consisted of multiple surges, each with clear variation of flow properties along the length of the surge. Steep, highly resistant, surge fronts of coarse-grained material without measurable pore-fluid pressure were pushed along by relatively fine-grained and water-rich tails that had a wide range of pore-fluid pressures (some two times greater than hydrostatic). Surges with larger nonequilibrium pore-fluid pressures had longer travel distances. A wide range of travel distances from different surges of similar size indicates that dynamic flow properties are of equal or greater importance than channel properties in determining where a particular surge will stop. Progressive vertical accretion of multiple surges generated the total thickness of mapped debris-flow deposits; nevertheless, deposits had massive, vertically unstratified sedimentological textures.

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