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A rapid loess mudflow triggered by the check dam failure in a bulldoze mountain area, Lanzhou, China

  • Fanyu ZhangEmail author
  • Binbin Yan
  • Xiaoming Feng
  • Hengxing LanEmail author
  • Chao Kang
  • Xishan Lin
  • Xinghua Zhu
  • Wenguo Ma
Recent Landslides


Urban expansion results in a large number of land creation projects in the Chinese Loess Plateau. This has strikingly catalyzed hilltops being cut and valleys or low lands being filled by bulldozed mountain. Meanwhile, a large number of check dams were built into the loess gully to store soil and water. This paper studied a case of check dam failure, which resulted in rapid loess mudflow in a bulldozed mountain area. To investigate kinematic characteristics of the mudflow and trigger mechanism of the dam failure, in situ feature measurements, physical property tests, triaxial tests, and groundwater simulations were carried out. The field investigation revealed that moisture content of the loess in the filled area was very high and that the dam failure was most likely due to groundwater seepage. The VS2DI simulation of the check dam showed that its material was over saturated due to moisture migration in it, which significantly affected its stability. The simulation results are consistent with those of the field investigation. Rapid mobility of the mudflow could be attributed to liquefaction of the loess behind the dams. Meanwhile, the movement velocities calculated from by in situ mud splash height are related to the deposited volume of the mobilized materials at corresponding sites.


Loess mudflow Check dam failure VS2DI simulation Bulldozed mountain area 



The authors’ special thanks go to the anonymous referee and the editor of this paper, whose valuable comments led to substantial improvement of this manuscript.

Funding information

This study was partially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41790443 and 41525010), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (No. 2018YFC504702), the Opening Fund of State Key Laboratory of Geohazard Prevention and Geoenvironment Protection (No. SKLGP2016K020), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. lzujbky-2019-kb46).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MOE Key Laboratory of Mechanics on Disaster and Environment in Western China, Department of Geological EngineeringLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.School of Geological Engineering and GeomaticsChang’an UniversityXi’anChina
  4. 4.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  5. 5.School of Physics and Electronic-Electrical EngineeringNingxia UniversityYinchuanChina

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