A range of hydrologic responses can be observed in steep, recently burned terrain, which makes predicting the spatial distribution of large debris flows challenging. Studies from rainfall-induced landslides in unburned areas show evidence of hydroclimatic tuning of landslide triggering, such that the spatial distribution of events is best predicted by the observed rainfall anomaly relative to climatic norms rather than by absolute rainfall. In this paper, we test whether the spatial distribution of debris flows in response to rainfall can be similarly predicted by rainfall anomaly. The 520 km2 Dolan Fire burn scar in Monterey County, California, USA, spans a sharp hydroclimatic gradient and experienced a widespread storm in January 2021 that triggered floods and debris flows, providing a natural experiment in which to test this hypothesis. In this study, we use remote and field methods to map debris-flow response and examine its spatial heterogeneity. Together with rainfall data, our mapping reveals that the observed anomalies in peak 15-min rainfall intensity (I15) relative to the intensity of the 1-yr return interval storm predict debris-flow occurrence better than the absolute peak I15. Our findings indicate that debris-flow processes and threshold rainfall required for debris-flow initiation may be tuned to local hydroclimate.
|Title||The spatial distribution of debris flows in relation to observed rainfall anomalies: Insights from the Dolan Fire, California|
|Authors||David B. Cavagnaro, Scott W. McCoy, Matthew A. Thomas, Jaime Kostelnik, Donald N. Lindsay|
|Publication Type||Conference Paper|
|Publication Subtype||Abstract or summary|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Geologic Hazards Science Center - Seismology / Geomagnetism|