Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


James W Vallance


Water-saturated debris flows are among some of the most destructive mass movements. Their complex nature presents a challenge for quantitative description and modeling. In order to improve understanding of the dynamics of these flows, it is important to seek a simplified dynamic system underlying their behavior. Models currently in use to describe the motion of debris flows employ depth-averaged equations of motion, typically assuming negligible effects from vertical acceleration. However, in many cases debris flows experience significant vertical acceleration as they move across irregular surfaces, and it has been proposed that friction associated with vertical forces and liquefaction merit inclusion in any comprehensive mechanical model. The intent of this work is to determine the effect of vertical acceleration through a series of laboratory experiments designed to simulate debris flows, testing a recent model for debris flows experimentally. In the experiments, a mass of water-saturated sediment is released suddenly from a holding container, and parameters including rate of collapse, pore-fluid pressure, and bed load are monitored. Experiments are simplified to axial geometry so that variables act solely in the vertical dimension. Steady state equations to infer motion of the moving sediment mass are not sufficient to model accurately the independent solid and fluid constituents in these experiments. The model developed in this work more accurately predicts the bed-normal stress of a saturated sediment mass in motion and illustrates the importance of acceleration and deceleration.

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Geology Commons