To investigate rainfall-runoff conditions that generate post-wildfire debris flows, we instrumented and surveyed steep, small watersheds along the tectonically active front of the San Gabriel Mountains, California. Fortuitously, we recorded runoff-generated debris-flows triggered by one spatially restricted convective event with 28 mm of rainfall falling over 62 minutes. Our rain gages, nested hillslope overland-flow sensors and soil-moisture probes, as well as a time series of terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) revealed the effects of the storm. Hillslope overland-flow response, along two ~10-m long flow lines perpendicular to and originating from a drainage divide, displayed only a 10 to 20 minute delay from the onset of rainfall with accumulated totals of merely 5-10 mm. Depth-stratified soil-moisture probes displayed a greater time delay, roughly 20- 30 minutes, indicating that initial overland flow was Hortonian. Furthermore, a downstream channel-monitoring array recorded a pronounced discharge peak generated by the passage of a debris flow after 18 minutes of rainfall. At this time, only four of the eleven hillslope overlandflow sensors confirmed the presence of surface-water flow. Repeat TLS and detailed field mapping using GPS document how patterns of rainsplash, overland-flow scour, and rilling contributed to the generation of meter-scale debris flows. In response to a single small storm, the debris flows deposited irregular levees and lobate terminal snouts on hillslopes and caused widespread erosion of the valley axis with ground surface lowering exceeding 1.5 m.
|Title||Hydrologic conditions and terrestrial laser scanning of post-fire debris flows in the San Gabriel Mountains, CA, U.S.A.|
|Authors||Kevin M. Schmidt, M. N. Hanshaw, James F. Howle, Jason W. Kean, Dennis M. Staley, Jonathan D. Stock, Gerald W. Bawden|
|Publication Type||Conference Paper|
|Publication Subtype||Conference Paper|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center|