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Landslides and increased debris-flow activity: A systematic comparison of six catchments in Switzerland


Frank, Florian; Huggel, Christian; McArdell, Brian W; Vieli, Andreas (2019). Landslides and increased debris-flow activity: A systematic comparison of six catchments in Switzerland. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 44(3):699-712.

Abstract

An increase in debris‐flow frequency is expected in steep Alpine catchments after the occurrence of a large landslide, such as a rock avalanche. Herein we describe changes in debris‐flow activity following increases in sediment availability due to landslides, or accelerated rock‐glacier movement, for five catchments in the Swiss Alps, the Spreitgraben, Schipfenbach, Bondasca, Riascio, and Dorfbach catchments. Documentation on debris‐flow activity is available from both before and after the landslide that generated the new sediment deposits. Data from nearby meteorological stations were used to explore possible changes in rainfall activity, and how the intensity and duration of rainfall events may have changed. In all cases there was a considerable increase in debris‐flows frequency for one to eight years following the landslide. The annual number of days with debris‐flow activity following the landslide was similar to that observed for the Illgraben catchment, where many such landslides occur annually. No clear change in precipitation totals preceding debris flows was apparent for the Riascio catchment, suggesting that the increase in frequency of debris flows is related to the increase in the amount of sediment that can be readily mobilized. In the two cases where rainfall data were available on an hourly basis, no systematic changes in the intensity or duration of rainfall related to debris‐flow triggering were apparent, as shown by the close‐clustering of storms on the intensity‐duration plots. Following the sediment‐generating event, an initial and sudden increase of the sediment yield was observed, followed by a decrease over time towards pre‐disturbance values. The response of the catchments appears to be related to the amount of debris‐flow activity prior to the landslide: sediment yield from catchments with frequent debris flows prior to the landslide activity did not increase as dramatically as in catchments where debris‐flow activity was less common prior to the landslide.

Abstract

An increase in debris‐flow frequency is expected in steep Alpine catchments after the occurrence of a large landslide, such as a rock avalanche. Herein we describe changes in debris‐flow activity following increases in sediment availability due to landslides, or accelerated rock‐glacier movement, for five catchments in the Swiss Alps, the Spreitgraben, Schipfenbach, Bondasca, Riascio, and Dorfbach catchments. Documentation on debris‐flow activity is available from both before and after the landslide that generated the new sediment deposits. Data from nearby meteorological stations were used to explore possible changes in rainfall activity, and how the intensity and duration of rainfall events may have changed. In all cases there was a considerable increase in debris‐flows frequency for one to eight years following the landslide. The annual number of days with debris‐flow activity following the landslide was similar to that observed for the Illgraben catchment, where many such landslides occur annually. No clear change in precipitation totals preceding debris flows was apparent for the Riascio catchment, suggesting that the increase in frequency of debris flows is related to the increase in the amount of sediment that can be readily mobilized. In the two cases where rainfall data were available on an hourly basis, no systematic changes in the intensity or duration of rainfall related to debris‐flow triggering were apparent, as shown by the close‐clustering of storms on the intensity‐duration plots. Following the sediment‐generating event, an initial and sudden increase of the sediment yield was observed, followed by a decrease over time towards pre‐disturbance values. The response of the catchments appears to be related to the amount of debris‐flow activity prior to the landslide: sediment yield from catchments with frequent debris flows prior to the landslide activity did not increase as dramatically as in catchments where debris‐flow activity was less common prior to the landslide.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:15 March 2019
Deposited On:15 Jan 2020 09:56
Last Modified:15 Jan 2020 09:56
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0197-9337
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.4524

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