Identifying post-earthquake debris flow hazard using Massflow

Alexander J. Horton, Tristram C. Hales, Chaojun Ouyang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


Catastrophic debris flows are common after large earthquakes and pose a significant risk for recovering communities. The depositional volume of these large debris flows is often much greater than the initiation volume, suggesting that bulking of the flow plays an important role in determining their volume, speed, and runout distance. Observations from recent earthquakes have driven progress in understanding the relationship between triggering rainfall events and the timing of post-earthquake debris flows. However, we lack an adequate mechanism for quantifying bulking and applying it within a hazard context. Here we apply a 2D dynamic debris flow model (Massflow) that incorporates a process-based expression of basal entrainment to understand how debris flow bulking may occur within post-earthquake catchments and develop hazard maps. Focussing on catchments in the epicentral area of the 2008 Mw 7.9 Wenchuan Earthquake, we first parameterised the model based on a large debris flow that occurred within the Hongchun catchment, before applying the calibrated model to adjoining catchments. A model sensitivity analysis identified three main controls on debris flow bulking; the saturation level of entrainable material along the flow pathway, and the size and position of initial mass failures. The model demonstrates that the difference between small and very large debris flows occur across a narrow range of pore-water ratios (λ). Below λ = 0.65 flows falter at the base of hillslopes and come to rest in the valley bottom, above λ = 0.70 they build sufficient mass and momentum to sustain channelised flow and transport large volumes of material beyond the valley confines. Finally, we applied the model across different catchments to develop hazard maps that demonstrate the utility of Massflow in post-earthquake planning within the Wenchuan epicentral region.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105134
JournalEngineering Geology
Early online date10 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Dive into the research topics of 'Identifying post-earthquake debris flow hazard using Massflow'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this