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The formation and failure of natural dams

John E. Costa and Robert L. Schuster
The formation and failure of natural dams
Geological Society of America Bulletin (July 1988) 100 (7): 1054-1068


Of the numerous kinds of dams that form by natural processes, dams formed from landslides, glacial ice, and late-neoglacial moraines present the greatest threat to people and property. Landslide dams form in a wide range of physiographic settings. The most common types of mass movements that form landslide dams are rock and debris avalanches; rock and soil slumps and slides; and mud, debris, and earth flows. The most common initiation mechanisms for dam-forming landslides are excessive rainfall and snowmelt and earthquakes. Natural dams may cause upstream flooding as the lake rises and downstream flooding as a result of failure of the dam. Although data are few, for the same potential energy at the dam site, downstream flood peaks from the failure of glacier-ice dams are smaller than those from landslide, moraine, and constructed earth-fill and rock-fill dam failures. Moraine-dam failures appear to produce some of the largest downstream flood peaks for potential energy at the dam site greater than 10 (super 11) -10 (super 12) joules. Differences in flood peaks of natural-dam failures appear to be controlled by dam characteristics and failure mechanisms.--Modified journal abstract.

ISSN: 0016-7606
EISSN: 1943-2674
Serial Title: Geological Society of America Bulletin
Serial Volume: 100
Serial Issue: 7
Title: The formation and failure of natural dams
Affiliation: U. S. Geol. Surv., Vancouver, WA, United States
Pages: 1054-1068
Published: 198807
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 122
Accession Number: 1988-046777
Categories: GeomorphologyEngineering geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 7 tables
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2019, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 1988
Program Name: USGSOPNon-USGS publications with USGS authors
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