Natural Hazards

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 497–511 | Cite as

Debris-flow susceptibility of upland catchments

  • Mélanie Bertrand
  • Frédéric Liébault
  • Hervé Piégay
Original Paper


Over the last three decades, many regional studies in mountain ranges under temperate climate revealed that it is possible to discriminate debris-flow and fluvial fans from morphometric indicators measured at the scale of the catchment and the fan itself. The most commonly used indicators are the Melton index (R), a normalized index of the gravitational energy of the catchment, and the fan slope (S). A wide range of thresholds have been proposed for discriminating purpose, but these are generally based on a small population of catchments and may be highly influenced by ambiguous fans included in the data set. A database of 620 upland catchments from several mountain ranges under temperate climate was compiled from the literature to propose robust discriminant morphometric thresholds for debris-flow versus fluvial responses. Linear discriminant analysis (LDA) and logistic regression (LR) were performed using the whole data set, and a leave-one-out cross-validation was used to evaluate performances of the models. Sensitivity and specificity scores obtained for LDA and LR were 0.96 and 0.73, and 0.95 and 0.75, respectively. It is also shown that the channel slope above which debris-flow is observed decreases with the gravitational energy of the catchment. Limitations of the morphometric discrimination are discussed.


Debris-flows Susceptibility analysis Morphometric controls Linear discriminant analysis Logistic regression 



This research is a part of the EU Interreg Alpine Space PARAmount project (“imProved Accessibility: Reliability and security of Alpine transport infrastructure related to mountainous hazards in a changing climate”) and CPER PACA Rhytmme project. The authors thank Lise Vaudor for her advices with statistical processing, Aurélie Carlin for her help with database compilation and preliminary analysis on the subject, and the ISIG platform at ENS of Lyon for material support. This paper benefits from comments by three anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mélanie Bertrand
    • 1
  • Frédéric Liébault
    • 1
  • Hervé Piégay
    • 1
  1. 1.IrsteaSaint-Martin-d’HèresFrance

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