Document Details

A study of methods to estimate debris flow velocity

Paul M. Santi, Adam B. Prochaska, Jerry D. Higgins, Susan H. Cannon | September 16th, 2019

Debris flow velocities are commonly back-calculated from superelevation events which require subjective estimates of radii of curvature of bends in the debris flow channel or predicted using flow equations that require the selection of appropriate rheological models and material property inputs. This research investigated difficulties associated with the use of these conventional velocity estimation methods. Radii of curvature estimates were found to vary with the extent of the channel investigated and with the scale of the media used, and back-calculated velocities varied among different investigated locations along a channel. Distinct populations of Bingham properties were found to exist between those measured by laboratory tests and those back-calculated from field data; thus, laboratory-obtained values would not be representative of field-scale debris flow behavior. To avoid these difficulties with conventional methods, a new preliminary velocity estimation method is presented that statistically relates flow velocity to the channel slope and the flow depth. This method presents ranges of reasonable velocity predictions based on 30 previously measured velocities.


debris flow, flood management, modeling

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