Estimation of design impact forces of debris flows

D. Proske, J, Suda, J. Hübl
University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

ABSTRACT: Mountain regions are exposed to a number of natural hazards such as avalanches, debris flows, rock falls and rock avalanches, flash floods and landslides. Mitigation measures are often employed to reduce the risks of hazards to humans and human settlements to an acceptable level. The design of structural mitigation measures are often not regulated and chosen arbitrary. Despite this situation, the design should at least comply with current rules for the design of structures. this measure has not yet been put in place.. Currently in Austria a new code of practice for the design of structural mitigation (concrete) measures against debris flow, is under development. This code deals with the design of debris flow barriers in terms of load cases, such as reinforcement details, static and dynamic loads. One of the major tasks to establish this new code is the preparation of flow impact forces for the design process. In this background document all known techniques for the estimation of such debris flow impacts are investigated in terms of prediction quality. Furthermore, also included are theoretical works, miniaturized testing (including tests conducted by the authors) and known real world measurements. The formulas are further compared (based on sensitivity) against unknown input variables. This investigation has been extended to include weighting factors according to the First Order Reliability Method. Despite the Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering having one of the greatest data files on natural hazard events (starting around 500 A.C.), the knowledge of debris flow in certain regions, very often lacks a sufficient amount of data for statistical analysis. Furthermore populations(do you mean data sets?) are heavily corrupted due to climate change, changing geomorphologic conditions and changing flora. Besides this the reporting quality of early events is extremely low. Therefore further techniques have been used, such as Fuzzy sets, Rough sets and Grey numbers. Awareness of the uncertainty and indeterminism of the data heavily influences the choice of the design impact force and can not be neglected in the choice of its design. Furthermore partial safety factors for this event have also been chosen. 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 Debris flow Alpine regions are exposed to many different natural hazards, such as avalanches, debris flows, landslides, flooding and rock fall. Debris flows are extremely mobile, highly concentrated mixtures of poorly sorted sediment in water (Pierson 1986). The material incorporated is inherently complex, varying from clay sized solids to boulders of several meters in diameter. Due to their high density (exceeding that of water by more than a factor of two) and their high mobility, debris flows represent a serious hazard for people, settlements, and infrastructure in mountainous regions. The front of a debris flow can reach velocities of up to 30 m/s (e.g. Costa 1984, Rickenmann 1999) and peak discharges tens of times greater than for floods occurring in the same catchment (e.g. Pierson 1986; Hungr et al. 2001). It is difficult to quantify annual economic losses due to such phenomena, however, in the year 2005 alone, more than 80 million Euro was spent in Austria for protection measures against torrential hazards (including floods, bedload transport, and debris flow). In debris flow research, the flowing mixture is mostly divided into the liquid ‘matrix’, composed of water and fine sediment in suspension, and the solid phase, consisting of coarse particles dispersed in fluid. Depending on the relative concentration of fine and coarse sediment, the prefix ‘viscous’ or ‘granular’ is often used. Since the early seventies, research has increasingly focused on the topic of debris flow behaviour (Johnson 1970, Costa 1984). Mudflows and debris flows consisting of a considerable amount of fine sediment are often regarded as homogeneous fluids, where the bulk flow behaviour is controlled by the ‘rheologic’ properties of the material mixture (e.g. Coussot et al. 1998; Cui et al. 2005). This simple rheologic approach has limitations for r debris flows consisting mainly of coarse

particles and water. In the last decades, geotechnical models have been employed to describe the motion of (granular) debris flows (e.g. Savage & Hutter 1989, Iversion 1997). The flow behavior of debris flows can be very variable, strongly depending on sediment composition and water content. Moreover, debris flow volume and bulk flow behavior may change during travel through a channel by for e.g. entrainment of loose sediment and/or incorporation of water from a tributary. For this reason, until now no general applicable model used in praxis is capable of covering the range of all possible material mixtures and event scenarios. 1.2 Design event For engineers it is important to predict possible triggering zones and deposition areas or runout lengths. Runout analysis is an essential component for hazard assessment in alpine watersheds, which includes pre-diction of potential hazard areas and mapping the distribution of hazard intensity parameters, such as velocity, flow depth and the thickness of the deposits. For the design of mitigation measures – such as check dams or other torrential barriers – it is essential to makea good estimation of possible impact forces of debris flow events occurring in a catchment. These impact forces can be considered to depend mainly on: • mixture composition, and • dynamic parameters, like flow depth and mean velocity Mixture composition depends on the geologic and geomorphologic background of the watershed, which of course has a significant influence on the flow behavior of the mixture. The maximum values of impact forces may also be a result of material composition (consider the impact of a debris flow involving several large boulders vs. a muddy debris flow with the same dynamic parameters). There are many parameters influencing debris flow dynamics, as already mentioned sediment composition and water content, but also channel slope, cross section area, and event magnitude. The probability of occurrence and the potential event volume of future debris flows can be regarded as the most important unknowns for debris flow hazard assessment. According to Rickenmann (1999), the application of the concept of ‘recurrence intervals’ and associated event volumes, as traditionally used in flood frequency analysis, may be problematic in the context of debris flow hazard assessment, since (1) only limited data of historic events is available, (2) a debris flow event may depend on previous ones. Zimmermann et al. (1987) found the characteristic pattern between debris flow magnitude and frequency for a particular catchment, to depend on the sediment availability and on the lithology of the

catchment. Further different empirical equations can be found in literature (e.g. Kronfellner-Kraus 1987, Zeller 1985, Rickenmann & Zimmermann 1993). All of these equations can be considered a rough estimation of total debris flow volume, based on the most important morphometric catchment characteristic. Rickenmann (1999) found that these formulae may overestimate the actual event volume by up to a factor of 100. In engineering practice it is therefore recommended to carry out a geomorphologic assessment of the sediment potential in the watershed. This – combined with a frequency analysis of precipitation data – might yield a realistic estimate for the volume of a design debris flow event Additionally consideration of the uncertainty of the formulas has to be made– either using probabilistic or other mathematical techniques. Using the information from field analysis (event magnitude, kind of sediment,…) it is necessary to estimate dynamic parameters such as peak discharge, mean flow velocity and flow depth, either using empirical relations (Rickenmann 1999) or determined by simulation models (e.g. O’Brien et al. 1993, Pitman & Le 2005). 1.3 Design of structural elements Unfortunately there is little known about the forces on structural elements, which might be caused by debris flows. Until now, barriers have been designed using some rough rules of thumb. Knowledge might be adapted to debris flows through the application of general procedures in the Eurocode, for the development of design forces. Structural elements have to be designed according to codes of practices or other regulations. Such codes are developed based on some general procedures or major assumptions. In the Eurocode the design and construction of buildings is heavily based on statistics and probability theory. This permits the introduction of general rules independent of the specific material or the specific type of load. Based on these rules design forces have been developed for many loads. Nevertheless many different load types are not dealt with, either because data is missing or because people working in specific fields are not aware of the general rules. For example the Eurocode does not yet deal with forces from avalanches or debris flows. This investigation tries to pull together the procedures according to the Eurocode and information on the impact forces of debris flow. However it may also be possible, that the safety concept of the Eurocode is simply insufficient for such cases.

2 INVESTIGATION OF DEBRIS FLOW IMPACT 2.1 Introduction At the Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, different ways have been used to develop design parameters for debris flow impacts. These approaches involve measurement of impact forces by large scale experimental debris flows (Hübl & Jäger 2004), measurement of miniaturized laboratory debris flows and investigation of damages of barrier structures caused by debris flow. All three procedures are characterized by the amount of data available and assumptions made thereby. For example the measurement of real scale debris flow is very limited, whereas the number of tests of the miniaturized debris flow is high. With the result that scale becomes a problem. The investigation of existing structures might include the problem of identification of the causes of damage and identification of the first damage. 2.2 Real scale debris flow impact tests Large scale debris flow impact tests have been carried out on a test site in the western part of Austria, in the ‘Schesatobel’ watershed. The test site is situated in a massive erosion area of moraine material. By controlling the outflow of a small artificial lake, debris flows are triggered by erosion processes in the loose material. At the end of a short transit zone an artificial barrier structure was installed. The measurement station is shown in figure 1 before and figure 2 during the impact of debris flow. The measured parameters include flow depth, surface velocity derived from video analysis, and impact forces on up to nine load cells in total. The tests were done in 2004 (Hübl & Jäger 2004) and 2006. Since the debris flow is rather heterogeneous, the evaluation of the data of the load cells was controlled by the video used for velocity measurements. The measured forces were classified into two types: the dynamic pressure of the debris flow and the impact forces by major stone bodies. During the test the maximum dynamic water pressure was estimated to be 40 kN/m2. An example of the flow of the pressure over time is shown in figure 3. Single impact forces were measured up to 8 kN. Based on the video material, the stone causing this impact force was identified. The mass was estimated as 30 kg, with a velocity of 4 to 5 m/s. Considering that one stone with a diameter of 1 m was observed on the video, but lacking the load cells, the possible impact forces were estimated assuming the same motion properties as the 30 kg stone, the impact force should have been about 500 kN. The relationship between the impact force and the motion of the stones

were also investigated using advanced distinct element models. The estimated impact force for a stone with 50 cm diameter is then 750 kN.

Figure 1. Experimental set-up at the beginning of the test.

Figure 2. Experimental set-up at the end of the test.

Figure 3. Measured dynamic debris flow pressure over time.

Zhang (1993) used a different measurement setup to estimate the maximal impact force. Instead of using load cells, Zhang (1993) used plastic deformations as indicators for maximum loads. Zhang collected more than 70 impact force graphs for fluid

dynamic pressures and for single impulse forces. The maximum value found for impact forces was about 3 MN. This would fit quite well to the estimated impact force of the observed 1 m diameter stone. Recently Wendeler et al (2007) has carried out site measurements of debris flows, however using nets. 2.3 Miniaturized debris impact tests In addition to the above mentioned real scale tests, small scale model experiments have been carried out in a straight rectangular channel of 4 m length (see figure 4) (Hübl & Holzinger 2003). The width of the channel was 35 cm with a fixed slope angle of 13.3°. Within the last third of the flume the impact on an open sectional barrier with two panels (often termed ‘debris flow breaker’) was measured. The widths of the two panels were varied resulting in three different slit – widths.
Hopper Gate Down pipe Flume Ultrasonic sensors Working platform Hoist

dimensional form the Froude number Fr and a dimensionless pressure factor Kp* were derived (Hübl & Holzinger 2003). The Froude number is calculated by the equation

Fr = v ⋅ ( g ⋅ hfl ) −0.5


where v is the mean velocity of the surge before hitting the barrier, hfl is the mean flow depth, and g is the acceleration due to gravity. The related pressure factor is calculated using the hydro-dynamic pressure formulae K p * = pmax ⋅ ( ρ DF ⋅ v 2 ) −1 (2a) where pmax is the maximum impact force measured on the force plates divided by the area of the plate and ρDF is the density of the debris flow material. The results of the tests were compared to other publications, presenting miniaturized tests (Scotton 1996, Ishikawa et al. 2008, Tiberghien et al. 2007) and to real world measurements (taken from Costa 1984 – Table 1). The Froude number deviation is generally high, ranging from 1 to 13, which is in the range of supercritical clear water flow in an open channel. Froude numbers calculated based on observations of natural debris flows are in the range between 1 and 2.
Table 1. List of observed and calculated debris flows ______________________________________________ River County estimated max. pressure in kN/m2 ______________________________________________ Rio Reventado Costa Rica 400-900 Hunshui Gully China 450-850 Bullock Creek New Zealand 100-150 Pine Creek USA 50-700 Wrightwood C.* USA 50-100 Wrightwood C.** USA 150 Lesser Almatinka R. USSR 200-1,000 Nojiri River* Japan 400-450 _____________________________________________ C. – Canyon, R. – River, * 1969 ** 1941

Debris flow Working Debris flow structure breaker


Figure 4. Sketch of the experimental flume.

The impact forces at four locations above the channel bed were continuously registered using single point load cells. Two pairs of ultra-sonic (US) flow depth sensors were installed ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ of the barrier structure. Using the data from the US sensors, the mean flow velocity and the flow hydrograph (mean and maximum flow depth) were derived before and after the passage of the miniaturized debris flow surge, as well as the deposition pattern. The experiments were video recorded from above and from the side (through a transparent side wall made of acrylic glass). The roughness coefficient of the side walls was made very low in order to reduce the influence of wall friction on the flow of the mixtures. The material used was a mixture of loam and water, mimicking the debris flow matrix, and gravel of various concentration levels. In order to compare the flow regime of the experimental surges and the maximum impact forces per unit area (i.e. pressure) on the barrier in a non-

From figure 5 it can be seen that there is a relationship between the Fr and Kp*. The figure includes the above mentioned data and a possible regression formula. The formula has not only been tested using linear regression, but also on robustness. Again looking at figure 5 it is revealed that the presented procedure includes a systematic difference of the proposed formulae in certain Froude-number regions. Whereas for low Froude-numbers hydrostatic formulas imposed by Lichtenhahn (1973) and Armanini (1997) may function very well, but for higher Froude numbers they fail. The inverse is valid for hydro-dynamic formulas (Hübl & Holzinger 2003, Watanabe & Ikeya 1981, Egli 2005, VanDine 1996,

Figure 5. Summary of data of debris flow impacts.

Hungr et al. 1984). Mixed models have also not succeeded (Kherkheulidze 1967, Arattano & Franzi 2003) although they are not included in figure 5. Also pure empirical models such as the one by Yu (1992) or the consideration of compressibility has not resolved the problem. Here one should return to the general properties of debris flows presented in the introduction of this paper. It can be summarized by stating that certain types of debris flow exist, which are extremely difficult to represent with a single formula. The extension of the models towards single impact events (e.g. rock falls) where models are available (Hertz 1881, Kuwabara & Kono 1987) does not only require average information about the flow, but more detailed information, for example about the rock diameters, which is under normal conditions completely missing. Unfortunately single stone impacts may dominate the impact (Zhang 1993). 2.4 Backward calculation of existing structures Based on several historical events, where either barriers were destroyed or houses hit by debris flow, the opportunity exists to recalculate the forces based on the structural damages (Strauss et al. 2005). Such backward calculations involve a major amount of uncertainty. The structures might have been damaged before the event or other assumptions about the impact might not be valid. The backward calculations were carried out for concrete and steel reinforced concrete barriers. The finite element pro-

grams ANSYS and ATENA were used. Despite ANSYS being well established for the modeling of complex 3D structures (figure 6), it still lacks a good description of concrete in cracked stages. ATENA on the other hand is probably the best program for the estimation of the post-crack behavior; nevertheless ATENA is not yet able to consider difficult geometries. Therefore both programs were used.

Figure 6. Example of a Finite Element Model of a barrier

The problem identified with the backward calculation include the uncertainty about the point of loading. There might be the possibility that pressure of major parts of the structures is combined with a single hit by a stone. Also the flow depth might change over the duration of a debris flow due to silting up. Nevertheless first computations affirm maximum dynamic forces up to 3 MN and up to 0.8 MN/m2 dynamic pressure. For the regulation of design impact forces, assumptions about the stochastic process are required.

2.5 Database of events The computation of the final debris flow design impact force and return period requires intensive data about the debris flow catchment area. For example hydraulic, climatic, biological and geomorphologic information are required as mentioned before. Furthermore all such information may be subject to changes due to climate change, change of usage yielding to change of plants, change of geomorphologic conditions and are perhaps related to other phenomena such as earthquakes. As already mentioned there are several historical databases in the European Alpine region to provide time series data for several different Mountain hazards (StormMe, DisAlp). Furthermore the Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering now has collected a database of historical events in the Austrian part of the Alps including more then 17,000 events. The database starts with the first events dating back to about 500 B.C. However the collection of events is not necessarily related to the number of events, as figure 7 shows. For example it is widely accepted that a peak of hazard events occurred around 1875 in the European Alps. This peak is probably strongly related to the maximum expansion of the glaciers around 1870 and the beginning retreat.
Number of natural disasters (Salzburg)

Besides such physical corruptions of the database, the report quality differs extremely. It is very often unclear whether a rock fall, a debris flow or a rock-ice avalanche occurred. Terms may be insufficiently chosen in historic documentations (Figure 8). Based on some ontological consideration a classification has to be carried out (Scheidl et al. 2005). 3 MODELLING OF INDETERMINACY 3.1 Introduction The aforementioned problems ranging from systematic uncertainties in the chosen model, for impact computation, towards uncertain historical data and unknown systematic changes of the observed population, require an explicit consideration of the overall indeterminacy. Until now, a wide range of mathematical techniques have been developed to deal with such indeterminacy or uncertainty in a certain way. Unfortunately to the authors knowledge there exists no general systematic, determining under which conditions, which mathematical technique for indeterminacy should be applied. Even worse, many techniques are in competition, for example Bayes statistics versus fuzzy models.

500 400 300 200 100 0
1269 1340 1411 1482 1552 1623 1694 1765 1836 1907 1978

Figure 7. Collection of reports about events for the federal state of Salzburg in Austria from 1270 to about 2000
Center of term Sharp border of term Weak border of term

Figure 8. Vagueness of words (Riedl 2000).

Heisenberg uncertainty principle Gödel's incompleteness theorem

Newton’s Mechanic

Laplace’ Daemon

Datamining Schwarm Intelligence Grey Systems Rough-Sets Expert Judgement Fractals Fuzzy Genetic Procedures Artifical neuronal networks Fuzzy-Sets Delphi-inquiry Chaostheory Probability, Statistics Destiny, Belief 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000

nal data set, for example the intensity of a debris flow, is defined as: X (0) = ( x (0) (1), x (0) (2), x (0) (3)...x (0) (k )) whereas the sum of the data is evaluated with:
X (1) (m) = ∑ x (0) (n) , m = 1...k
n =1 m

300 B.C. 16th cen. 1920 17th cen.

Figure 9. Models dealing with indetermination or uncertainty (Proske 2008)

Currently there are several different techniques applied to the available data about debris flow impacts. Such techniques are stochastic models, fuzzy models, rough sets and Grey numbers. Here only Grey numbers are introduced. 3.2 Grey models Grey model theory is a mathematical description of uncertainty (Deng 1988). This theory can be used alone or in connection with other mathematical theories dealing with uncertainty, such as fuzzy theory (Tsaur 2005). Grey model theory is a theory consisting of many different fields, such as Grey theory controlling, Grey decision making or Grey model prediction. In general, the degree of Grey describes the information content of a number (figure 9). The white number is perfectly known whereas a black number is not known at all. For Grey numbers rules of calculation exist which can be found, for example at Guo & Love (2005). It is not the focus of the paper to introduce the concept of Grey models in all details; instead a simple model should be introduced.

Producing the sum is called the Accumulated Generating Operation (AGO). It yields to a continually growing series and smoothes the data. Smoothed data is considered as data with a higher information density and a decrease of random disturbances. The exponential model is based on the following differential equation: dx (1) / dt + a ⋅ x (1) (t ) = b . Considering the connection between the two data sets, one can assume: dx (1) → x (1) (k + 1) − x (1) (k ) = x (0) (k + 1) dt and using a whitenisation process x (1) (t ) → z (1) (k ) = 0.5 ⋅ x (1) (k ) + 0.5 ⋅ x (1) (k − 1) This yields to the equations: x (0) (2) = − a ⋅ z (1) (2) + b, x (0) (3) = − a ⋅ z (1) (3) + b,
... x (0) (4) = − a ⋅ z (1) (4) + b Putting this into matrix form ⎡ x (0) (2) ⎤ ⎡ − z (1) (2) 1⎤ ⎢ ⎥ ⎢ ⎥ B = ⎢ − z (1) (3) 1⎥ , Y = ⎢ x (0) (3) ⎥ ⎢ − z (1) (4) 1⎥ ⎢ x (0) (4) ⎥ ⎣ ⎦ ⎣ ⎦ one gets: ⎡a ⎤ T −1 T ⎢b ⎥ = ( B ⋅ B) ⋅ B ⋅ Y . ⎣ ⎦ Now considering the solution of the aforementioned differential equation and using the starting information, one gets a general formula: b x (1) (k ) = C1 ⋅ e − a⋅k + . a Considering boundary conditions given, one gets: b⎞ b ⎛ ˆ x (1) (k + 1) = ⎜ x (0) (1) − ⎟ ⋅ e − a⋅k + a⎠ a ⎝ and the estimator for the original data using the Inverse Accumulated Generating Operation data is: ˆ ˆ ˆ x (0) (k + 1) = x (1) (k + 1) − x (1) (k ) . The authors have carried out several tests. In principal it can not be stated, that Grey models under all circumstances perform better than pure statistical methods, such as regression. According to the experience of the authors the success depends very much on the Grey model chosen, which indeed needs some assumptions about the behavior of the data. In the last few years many new Grey models have been developed, such as DGDMMI(1,1,1), UIRGM(1,1), GDM(2,2,1), GM(0,N) to mention only a few. There exists also a grey Verhulst which

Figure 10. Example of a Grey number

3.3 Grey exponential model Grey model analysis permits the prediction of system behavior, such as extrapolation of data. As an introduction the application of Grey models will be shown for the so-called Grey exponential model (GM(1,1)), which is the simplest model. The origi-

has already been successfully applied for the prediction of water storm surges in the Netherlands. 4 CONCLUSION This paper has illustrated the entire chain of steps for the development of design impact forces for debris flows. It reveals that all steps involve major uncertainties in many different ways: historical data is assessable only at different quality levels, is corrupted due to climate change, changing vegetation covers, changing geomorphologic conditions and changing hydraulic conditions. All of these effects must be considered in the preparation of the design impact forces for engineers, otherwise one may as well keep the extremely simple models currently in use. Based on the many different origins of uncertainty it seems to be questionable that stochastic values alone can cover them. Therefore in this research project a detailed study on the origin of the impact equations and data was carried out and investigated using stochastic and grey numbers. Further techniques such as rough sets and fuzzy sets need to be investigated in the future.. 5 AKNOWLEDGEMENT The authors want to express there thanks to the Austrian Research Foundation (FWF) for the support of the study about indeterminacy and safety concepts. REFERENCES
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