Debris flows in the Lushan earthquake area: formation characteristics, rainfall conditions, and evolutionary tendency

Abstract

Debris flows often occur in the mountainous watersheds of earthquake-affected areas, and in the Lushan earthquake area of southwestern China, they have become a significant hazard. In this study, the influencing factors and spatial distribution of debris flows were analyzed through a review of their occurrence history. Debris flows are mainly distributed in the northwestern part of the study area, which hosts the greatest density of active faults. The debris flows are generally formed by the ‘progressive bulking’ effect in channels, and deep incision, lateral erosion, and blockage breaking are common processes that amplify the magnitude of such debris flows. Rainfall thresholds for different types of debris flow were proposed to explain the spatial differences between debris-flow regions, and the temporal variations of those thresholds highlighted how the rainfall conditions required for the occurrence of debris flows have changed. Natural vegetation recovery, reduction in the availability of solid material, and artificial debris-flow control projects play important roles in raising the threshold of the rainfall conditions required for triggering debris flows.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Source material distribution and debris-flow development process

Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13
Fig. 14
Fig. 15
Fig. 16
Fig. 17

References

  1. Aleotti P (2004) A warning system for rainfall-induced shallow failures. Eng Geol 73:247–265

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bardou E, Jaboyedoff M (2008) Debris flows as a factor of hillslope evolution controlled by a continuous or a pulse process? Geol Soc Spec Publ 296:63–78

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Berti M, Bernard M, Gregoretti C, Simoni A (2020) Physical interpretation of rainfall thresholds for runoff-generated debris flows. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JF005513

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Caine N (1980) The rainfall intensity–duration control of shallow landslides and debris flows. Geografiska Annaler Series A Phys Geogr 62:23–27

    Google Scholar 

  5. Cannon SH, Bigio ER, Mine E (2001) A process for fire-related debris flow initiation, Cerro Grande fire, New Mexico. Hydrol Process 15(15):3011–3023

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Cannon S, Gartner J, Wilson R (2008) Storm rainfall conditions for floods and debris flows from recently burned areas in southwestern Colorado and southern California. Geomorphology 96:250–269

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Chang M, Tang C, Xia CH, Fang QS (2016) Spatial distribution analysis of landslides triggered by the 2013–04-20 Lushan earthquake, China. Earthq Eng Eng Vib 15:163–171

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Chen CY, Chen TC, Yu FC, Yu WH, Tseng CC (2005) Rainfall duration and debris-flow initiated studies for real-time monitoring. Environ Geol 47:715–724

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Chen CY (2016) Landslide and debris flow initiated characteristics after typhoon Morakot in Taiwan. Landslides 13:153–164

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Chen H, Petley DN (2005) The impact of landslides and debris flow triggered by typhoon Mindulle in Taiwan. Q J Eng Geol Hydrogeol 38:301–304

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Chen XL, Yu L, Wang MM, Lin CX, Liu CG, Li JY (2014) Brief communication: landslides triggered by the Ms =7.0 Lushan earthquake. China Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci. 14(5):1257–1267

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Chen L, Wang H, Ran Y, Lei S, Li X, Wu F, Ma X, Liu C, Han F (2014) The 2013 Lushan Ms 7.0 earthquake: Varied seismogenic structure from the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Seismol Res Lett 85(1):34–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Coe JA, Kinner DA, Godt JW (2008) Initiation conditions for debris flows generated by runoff at Chalk Cliffs, central Colorado. Geomorphology 96(3–4):270–297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Costa JE (1984) Physical geomorphology of debris flows. In: Costa JE, Fleischer PJ (eds) Developments and Applications of Geomorphology. Springer, Berlin, Germany, pp 268–317

    Google Scholar 

  15. Cui P, Chen XQ, Zhu YY, Su FH, Wei FQ, Han YS, Liu HJ, Zhuang JQ (2011) The Wenchuan Earthquake (May 12, 2008), Sichuan Province, China, and resulting geohazards. Nat Hazards 56(1):19–36

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Cui P, Zhou GG, Zhu XH, Zhang JQ (2013) Scale amplification of natural debris flows caused by cascading landslide dam failures. Geomorphology 182:173–189

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Cui P, Zhang JQ, Yang ZJ, Chen XQ, You Y, Li Y (2014) Activity and distribution of geohazards induced by the Lushan earthquake, April 20, 2013. Nat Hazards 73:711–726

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Cui P, Guo XJ, Yan Y, Li Y, Ge YG (2018) Real-time observation of an active debris flow watershed in the Wenchuan Earthquake area. Geomorphology 321(15):153–166

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Degetto M, Gregoretti C, Bernard M (2015) Comparative analysis of the differences between using LiDAR contour based DEMs for hydrological modeling of runoff generating debris flows in the Dolomites. Front Earth Sci 3:21

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Domènech G, Fan XM, Scaringi G, van Asch TWJ, Xu Q, Huang RQ, Hales TC (2019) Modeling the role of material depletion, grain coarsening and revegetation in debris flow occurrences after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Eng Geol 250:34–44

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Fan RL, Zhang LM, Wang HJ, Fan XM (2018) Evolution of debris flow activities in Gaojiagou Ravine during 2008–2016 after the Wenchuan earthquake. Eng Geol 235:1–10

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fan X, Scaringi G, Korup O, West AJ, van Westen CJ, Tanyas H et al (2019) Earthquake-induced chains of geologic hazards: Patterns, mechanisms, and impacts. Rev Geophysics 57(2):421–503

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Gabet EJ, Bookter A (2008) A morphometric analysis of gullies scoured by post-fire progressively bulked debris flows in southwest Montana, USA. Geomorphology 96(3):298–309

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Godt JW, Coe JA (2007) Alpine debris flows triggered by a 28 July 1999 thunderstorm in the central Front Range. Colorado Geomorphology 84(1–2):80–97

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Griffiths PG, Webb RH, Melis TS (2004) Frequency and initiation of debris flows in Grand Canyon. Arizona J Geophysical Res 109:F04002

    Google Scholar 

  26. Guo XJ, Cui P, Li Y, Ma L, Ge YG, William BM (2016a) Intensity-duration threshold of rainfall triggering debris flows in Wenchuan earthquake area, China. Geomorphology 263:208–216

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Guo XJ, Cui P, Li Y, Zhang JQ, Ma L, William BM (2016b) Spatial features of debris flows and their rainfall thresholds in the Wenchuan Earthquake-affected area. Landslides 13:1215–1229

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Guo XJ, Cui P, Li Y, Zou Q, Kong YD (2016c) The formation and development of debris flows in large watersheds after the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. Landslides 13:25–37

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Guo XJ, Cui P, Li Y, Fan JL, Yan Y, Ge YG (2016d) Temporal differentiation of rainfall thresholds for debris flows in Wenchuan earthquake-affected areas. Environ Earth Sci 75:1–12

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Gregoretti C, Fontana GD (2008) The triggering of debris flow due to channel-bed failure in some alpine headwater basins of the Dolomites: analyses of critical runoff. Hydrol Process 22:2248–2263

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Gregoretti C, Degetto M, Bernard M, Boreggio M (2018) The debris flow occurred at Ru Secco Creek, Venetian Dolomites, on 4 August 2015: analysis of the phenomenon, its characteristics and reproduction by models. Frontier Earth Sci. https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2018.00080

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Guzzetti F, Peruccacci S, Rossi M, Stark C (2007) Rainfall thresholds for the initiation of landslides in central and southern Europe. Meteorol Atmos Phys 98:239–2125

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Guzzetti F, Peruccacci S, Rossi M, Stark C (2008) The rainfall intensity–duration control of shallow landslides and debris flows: an update. Landslides 5:3–17

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Huang RQ, Li WL (2014) Post-earthquake landsliding and long-term impacts in the Wenchuan earthquake area. China Eng Geol 182:111–120

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Imaizumi F, Sidle RC, Tsuchiya S, Ohsaka O (2006) Hydrogeomorphic processes in a steep debris flow initiation zone. Geophys Res Lett 33:L10404

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Imaizumi F, Masui T, Yokota Y, Tsunetaka H, Hayakawa YS, Hotta N (2019) Initiation and runout characteristics of debris flow surges in Ohya landslide scar, Japan. Geomorphology 339:58–59

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Innes JL (1983) Debris flows. Prog Phys Geogr 7:469–501

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Jibson R (1989) Debris flow in southern Puerto Rico. Geol Soc Am Spec Pap 236:29–55

    Google Scholar 

  39. Li CR, Wang M, Liu K (2018) A decadal evolution of landslides and debris flows after the Wenchuan earthquake. Geomorphology 323:1–12

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Lin GW, Chen H, Chen YH, Horng MJ (2008) Influence of typhoons and earthquakes on rainfall-induced landslides and suspended sediments discharge. Eng Geol 97:32–41

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Lin CW, Shieh CL, Yuan BD, Liu SH, Lee SY (2003) Impact of Chi-Chi earthquake on the occurrence of landslides and debris flows: example from the Chenyulan River watershed, Nantou. Taiwan Eng Geol 71:49–61

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Lin CW, Liu SH, Lee SY, Liu CC (2006) Impacts of the Chi-Chi earthquake on subsequent rainfall-induced landslides in central Taiwan. Eng Geol 86:87–101

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Kean JW, McCoy SW, Tucker GE, Staley DM, Coe JA (2013) Runoff-generated debris flows: Observations and modeling of surge initiation, magnitude, and frequency. J Geophysical Res: Earth Surf 118(4):2190–2207

    Google Scholar 

  44. Koch T (1998) Testing of various constitutive equations for debris flow modelling. In: Kovar K et al (eds) Hydrology, Water Resources and Ecology in Headwaters, IAHS Publ No 248. Merano, Italy, pp 249–257

    Google Scholar 

  45. Ma C, Wang YJ, Hu KH, Du C, Yang WT (2017) Rainfall intensity–duration threshold and erosion competence of debris flows in four areas affected by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Geomorphology 282:85–95

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Ma C, Deng J, Wang R (2018) Analysis of the triggering conditions and erosion of a runoff-triggered debris flow in Miyun County, Beijing, China. Landslides 15:2475–2485

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. McGuire LA, Rengers FK, Kean JW, Staley DM (2017) Debris flow initiation by runoff in a recently burned basin: Is grain-by-grain sediment bulking or en-masse failure to blame? Geophys Res Lett. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL074243

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Ouyang CJ, He SM, Tang C (2015) Numerical analysis of dynamics of debris flow over erodible beds in Wenchuan earthquake-induced area. Eng Geol 194:62–72

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Prenner D, Kaitna R, Mostbauer K, Hrachowitz M (2018) The Value of Using Multiple Hydrometeorological Variables to Predict Temporal Debris Flow Susceptibility in an Alpine Environment. Water Resour Res 54(9):6822–6843

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Prenner D, Hrachowitz M, Kaitna R (2019) Trigger characteristics of torrential flows from high to low alpine regions in Austria. Sci Total Environ 658:958–972

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Reid ME, Coe JA, Brien DL (2016) Forecasting inundation from debris flows that grow volumetrically during travel, with application to the Oregon Coast Range, USA. Geomorphology 273:396–411

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Rickenmann D (1999) Empirical relationships for debris flows. Nat Hazards 19(1):47–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Saito S, Daichi N, Hiroshi M (2010) Relationship between the initiation of a shallow landslide and rainfall intensity-duration thresholds in Japan. Geomorphology 118:1125–1175

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Shieh C, Chen Y, Tsai Y, Wu JH (2009) Variability in rainfall threshold for debris flow after the Chi-Chi earthquake in central Taiwan, China. Int J Sedim Res 24:177–188

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Simoni A, Bernard M, Berti A, Boreggio M, Lanzoni S, Stancanelli L, Gregoretti C (2020) Runoff-generated debris flows: observation of initiation conditions and erosion-deposition dynamics along the channel at Cancia (eastern Italian Alps). Earth Surf Proc Land. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.4981

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Smith HG, Sheridan GJ, Nyman P, Child DP, Lane PN, Hotchkis MA, Jacobsen GE (2012) Quantifying sources of ne sediment supplied to post-fire debris flows using fallout radionuclide tracers. Geomorphology 139:403–415

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Shou KJ, Wu CC, Fei LY, Lee JF, Wei CY (2011) Dynamic environment in the Ta-Chia River watershed after the 1999 Taiwan. Chi-Chi earthquake Geomorphology 133:190–198

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Tang C, Ma GC, Chang M, Li WL, Zhang DD, Jia T, Zhou ZY (2015) Landslides triggered by the 20 April 2013 Lushan earthquake, Sichuan Province, China. Eng Geol 187:45–55

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Tang H, McGuire L, Kean J, Smith J (2020) The impact of sediment supply on the initiation and magnitude of runoff-generated debris flows. Geophys Res Lett. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GL087643

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Wang CD, Xie J (2018) The formation mechanism and characteristics of debris flows in Lengmu Gully on 2012.8.18. Shaanxi Shuili 6:61–63 (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  61. Wang E, Meng Q (2009) Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the Longmenshan fault belt. Sci China Ser D Earth Sci 52:579–592

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Xu C, Xu XW, Bruce J, Shyu H (2015) Database and spatial distribution of landslides triggered by the Lushan, China Mw 6.6 earthquake of 20 April 2013. Geomorphology 248:77–92

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Yin YP, Wang FW, Sun P (2009) Landslide hazards triggered by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, Sichuan. China Landslides 6(2):139–152

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Zhang Y, Dong S, Hou C, Guo C, Yao X, Li B, Du J, Zhang J (2013) Geohazards induced by the Lushan Ms 7.0 earthquake in Sichuan Province, southwest China: typical examples, types and distributional characteristics. Acta Geol Sin 87:646–657

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Zhang S, Zhang LM (2017) Impact of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China on subsequent long-term debris flow activities in the epicentral area. Geomorphology 276:86–103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Zhou W, Tang C (2014) Rainfall thresholds for debris flow initiation in the Wenchuan earthquake-stricken area, southwestern China. Landslides 11(5):877–887

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the Second Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Scientific Research (2019QZKK0903-02), National Research and Development Program (2020YFC1512000 and 2017YFC1502504), NSFC (41977257), Department of Land and Resources Project of Sichuan Province (KJ-2018-22), and Western Light of Young Scholars, CAS. We thank James Buxton MSc from Liwen Bianji, Edanz Group China (www.liwenbianji.cn/ac), for editing the English text of this manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Xiaojun Guo or Xingchang Chen.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Guo, X., Chen, X., Song, G. et al. Debris flows in the Lushan earthquake area: formation characteristics, rainfall conditions, and evolutionary tendency. Nat Hazards (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-021-04559-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Debris flows
  • Formation mechanism
  • Rainfall thresholds
  • Spatial distribution
  • Lushan earthquake