Journal of Mountain Science

Geomorphologic analysis and physico-dynamic characteristics of Zhatai-Gully debris flows in SW China

Abstract Zhatai gully is a typical debris flow channel in Butuo county of Sichuan province, southwestern China. The geomorphologic features are analyzed and the physical-dynamic characteristics are discussed on the basis of field investigation and laboratory tests. Geomorphologic analysis indicates that Zhatai-gully drainage in relation to debris flow can be divided into source area, transport area, and deposition area. The source area has a steep slope and has very limited vegetation cover, which favors runoff, allowing loose solid materials to be mobilized easily and rapidly. In the transport area, there are many small landslides, lateral lobes, and loose materials distributed on both banks. These landslides are active and constantly providing abundant source of soils for the debris flows. In the deposition area, three old debris-flow deposits of different ages can be observed. The dynamic calculation shows that within the recurrence intervals of 50 and 100 years, debris flow discharges are 155.77m3/s and 1y8.19m3/s and deposition volumes are 16.39 x 104 m3 and 18.14 x 104 m3, respectively. The depositional fan of an old debris flow in the outlet of the gully can be subdivided into six layers. There are three debris flow deposits on left and two on the right side of the gully. Grain-size tests of sediments from the soil, gulley bed deposits, and the fresh and old debris flow deposits showed that high amounts of clay and fine gravel were derived from the soil in the source area whereas much of the gravel fraction were sourced from the gully bed deposits. Comprehensive analysis indicates that Zhatai gully is viscous debris-flow gully with moderate to high frequency and moderate to large magnitude debris flows. The risk of a debris flow disaster in Zhatai-gully is moderate and poses a potential threat to the planned hydroelectric dam. Appropriate engineering measures are suggested in the construction and protection of the planned hydroelectric station.

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