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Geosciences Journal

Vol. 14, No. 4, p. 359 369, December 2010

DOI 10.1007/s12303-010-0036-y
The Association of Korean Geoscience Societies and Springer 2010

Grain size dependent rheology on the mobility of debris flows

Sueng Won Jeong* Geologic Environment Division, Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM),
Daejeon, 305-350, Republic of Korea

ABSTRACT: When dealing with natural geo-hazards it is impor- Pierson, 1992; Coussot and Piau, 1994; Perret et al., 1996;
tant to understand the influence of flow characteristics on the sub- Locat, 1997).
marine landslides, because the flow characteristics of fine-grained Among influencing factors on the rheological behavior,
soils are most likely governed by the rheological properties. It may
further relate to the mobility analysis of debris flow. Geotechnical many studies were initiated on the volumetric concentration
and rheological investigation on the clay-rich materials were com- of solids, the volumetric proportion of sand-clay mixtures
pared with those of silt-rich materials. For the examined fine-grained and surface phenomena (for instance, the interaction between
soils, the flow behavior depends on the volumetric concentration particles and fluid in particle-laden open channel flow). The
of solid and surface phenomenon, particularly for non-swelling effect of salinity on the flow behavior of fine-grained sed-
materials. Assuming that the debris flow materials behave as the iments is also significant (e.g., Bentley, 1979; Torrance and
Bingham fluid, a possible relationship between geotechnical and
rheological properties are proposed. From an empirical relation- Pirnat, 1984). As many authors pointed out, an increase in
ship between yield stress and plastic viscosity, a comparison empha- salinity can result in an increase in yield stress and viscos-
sizes the grain size effect on the rheology of geomaterials encountered ity. Locat (1997) presented that the flow behavior depends
in various environments. The larger the particle size involved in not only on concentration of solid but also on surface phe-
the matrix, the lower the value of viscosity which is in the order of nomena which can be represented by the liquidity index. It
10 times. Debris flow mobility with respect to rheology concerning could provide a normalizing parameter of flow properties.
the large particle size is emphasized.
As compared with factors affecting rheological character-
Key words: geo-hazards, submarine landslides, geotechnical and rheo- izations, grain size effect is by far the most important factor.
logical properties, grain size effect, geomaterials, debris flow mobility Large data scatter due to increasing grain sizes makes it
more difficult to describe the rheological behavior and to fit
1. INTRODUCTION an appropriate rheological model. The present paper aims at
revisiting the relationships proposed by Locat (1997) by
Muddy debris flows were often encountered in various integrating various rheological test results obtained on sam-
environments: sensitive clay plains, alpine terrains, and sub- ples of different nature in such a way as to be able to con-
marine landslides (Terzaghi, 1956; Morgenstern, 1967; Tave- sider the role of sediment texture (from clay to sand) on the
nas et al., 1971; Hampton et al., 1996; Malet et al., 2003). rheological behavior of soils.
In particular, the flow of highly concentrated mixtures of Firstly, this paper examines the geotechnical and rheo-
sediment and water is an important geomechanical process logical characteristic of fine-grained soils from a compre-
in subaerial and subaqueous environments. The flows with hensive compilation of rheological data (Jeong, 2006). This
large volumes of sediments could have a potential of rapid paper then presents the factor affecting the rheological
transportation. The long run-out distances observed for sub- behaviors, particularly for the effect of grain size. Analysis
marine landslides could be related to the variations of rheo- has been conducted on the silt-rich materials taken from the
logical properties of the completely remoulded soils. A land and marine environments. From this analysis, some
highly concentrated form of sediment transport is treated as general conclusions are drawn about the influence of grain
non-Newtonian yield stress fluids. For this, viscoplastic sizes on rheological properties, and insight has been obtained
flow behavior can be encountered in almost all the subaerial into the preliminary analysis for the development of post-
and subaqueous landslides, however the rheological char- failure in landslides.
acteristics are still highly complex. The consequences can
be influenced by many factors including the soil type, grain 2. FLOW CHARACTERISTICS OF GEOMATERIALS
size distribution, mineralogy, volumetric concentration of
solid, salinity, pH, temperature, and shear rate history (Tor- Fluids for which the shear stress is not linearly related to
rance and Pirnat, 1984; Locat and Demers, 1988; Major and the rate of shearing strain are designated as non-Newtonian
fluids: for instance, paints, polymer, concentrated solutions
*Corresponding author: of sugar in water, colloids, clays, milk, blood, liquid cement,
360 Sueng Won Jeong

Fig. 2. Determination of rheological parameters on the Pointe-du-

Fig. 1. Principle flow types. (1) Bingham; (2) Bingham plastic; (3) Fort sample with a liquidity index of 3. Domain (1) = pre-yielding,
shear thinning; (4) Newtonian; (5) shear thickening. Domain (2) = yielding surface, and Domain (3) = post-yielding.

and many other industrial uses of great importance. The In order to examine the flow type, the behavior can be
principal types of flow are shown in Figure 1: (1) ideal graphically portrayed in linear plots of shear stress against
Bingham (viscoplastic with a yield stress), (2) Bingham shear rate. Figure 2 gives an example of determination of
plastic (shear thinning with yield stress), (3) shear thinning rheological properties on the Pointe-du-Fort soils (upper
(pseudoplastic, n < 1), (4) Newtonian, and (5) shear thick- Saguenay Fjord, Qubec, Canada) with a liquidity index of 3.
ening (dilatant, n > 1). In fact, the simplest theoretical When looking carefully at Figure 2, there are three domains:
model is well known as the Bingham model. The concept (1) first branch of flow curve with respect to plastic defor-
of ideal Bingham model is convenient in practice, but the mation, having a pseudo-Newtonian viscosity which would
Bingham model cannot be fitted to flow curves in the wide represent the mixture resistance with respect to cohesion
range of shear rates. In fact, a number of sediments exhibit (Locat, 1997); (2) yield surface having an apparent yield
diverse rheological behaviors. A more precise way of indi- stress against deformation; and (3) flow of a liquid having
cating the behavior is to say that the fluid is pseudoplastic, an ideal Bingham viscosity. When plotted as the logarithm
implying that it shows a time-independent decrease of vis- of viscosity against the logarithm of shear stress (or shear
cosity with no yield value (Whorlow, 1980; Tanner, 1985). rate) shown in Figure 3, the phenomenological character-
A more complex situation, of great interest within the con- ization may be better illustrated. Newtonian fluid has a con-
text of this study, is encountered with geomaterials with flow stant viscosity irrespective of change of shear rate. In the
curves being in agreement with the following equations: shear thinning fluids (or known as pseudoplastic) the apparent
Bingham: viscosity decreases as shear rate linearly increases. The
term apparent viscosity is common when describing the
= y + p (1)
flow behavior of non-Newtonian fluids. The ratio of the
Herschel-Bulkley: shear stress to the shear rate for a non-Newtonian liquid
n having an identical viscosity as a Newtonian liquid is called
= y + K (2)
apparent viscosity (sometimes, introduced as effective vis-
Carreau: cosity). Conversely, in shear thickening fluids (sometimes
also denoted as dilatant) the apparent viscosity is diamet-
o 2 (n 1) 2
---------------- = [ 1 + ( ) ] (3) rically opposed to shear thinning. Dilatancy is rare and can
o occur in sand-water mixtures. An original discussion of
where is the shear stress (Pa), y is the yield stress (Pa), p dilatant fluids studied for sand-water mixtures was made by
is plastic viscosity (Pas), and is the shear rate (s1). K is Osborne Reynolds who found that dilatant fluids have an
the consistency coefficient (Pas), and n is the flow behavior increase in viscosity as the shear rate increases. However,
index (dimensionless). In Equation (2), if y = 0, Herschel- this phenomenon cannot cover a wide range of materials,
Bulkley equation simplifies to Power law equation. For n = 1, because all shear thickening are not associated with a vol-
the power law model reduces to a Newtonian fluid model. In ume increase at a particular strain rate. Over a wide range
Equation (3), o is the zero-shear rate viscosity (Bird et al., of shear rates, it looks that the viscosity of such non-New-
1977), h is the infinite-shear rate viscosity, and is the time tonian fluids having a yield stress was decreasing asymp-
constant. There are still many others (see Barnes, 1999). totically as the applied shear stress (or strain rate) was
Grain size dependent rheology on the mobility of debris flows 361

Fig. 3. A sketch of log viscosity versus log shear rate for various flow types and cross models.

increased (Fig. 3b). After a power law in motion, the sheared 2009). In this study, we assumed that all soil samples are
material reverts back to Newtonian viscosity, with the vis- low activity (or non-swelling) materials, without examining
cosity independent of shear rate (see Cross, 1965, 1970; their swelling capacity. As for the basic geotechnical tests,
Bird et al., 1977; Tanner, 1985; Barnes et al., 1989). Thus samples were tested according to ASTM and BNQ (Bureau
non-Newtonian fluids exhibit a Newtonian-through-power- de normalisation du Qubec) standards. The St-Alban clays
law-to-Newtonian flow behavior. This type of model is are postglacial Champlain Sea marine clays, located about
considerably more difficult to use than the power law but 100 km west of Qubec City, Canada (Locat, 1997; Trem-
occasionally if one needs a close fit for numerical works, blay et al., 2002). It was known that the region of Basses-
they can be useful (Barnes, 1999). Terre du St-Laurent was inundated by the Champlain Sea,
The viscosity depends not only on the shear rate but also about 12,000 years ago, before the glacial retreat and
with time when constant shearing is applied (Mewis, 1979; removal of the ice overburden. It is known that these soils
Barnes, 1997). Non-linear time-dependent fluids can be are composed of particles that vary in size: fine sand (10%),
subdivided into two types: i.e., thixotropic and negative silt (52%), and clay (38%) collected from intact soil sample.
thixotropic fluids. In general, a reversible time-dependent The Baie des Ha!Ha! samples were taken from the upper
decrease of viscosity is termed thixotropy, and a reversible Saguenay Fjord, Qubec, located in Canada on the north
time-dependent increase of viscosity is called negative thix- coast of the Saint-Lawrence Estuary. The Saguenay Fjord is
otropy. It should be noted that thixotropy is considered as a a long (90 km) and narrow (1 to 6 km) glacially excavated
phenomenon capable of inducing soil structural changes, valley that lies in an ancient graben in the Precambrian
generating a sensitivity which increases with time. This is Canadian Shield (St-Onge et al., 2004). The Saguenay Fjord
one of the reasons why the thixotropic behavior of natural has been marked by several natural disasters over the last
materials is of great importance. However, the effect of few centuries: the 1663 and 1988 earthquakes, the 1971
thixotropy is beyond the scope of this study. Saint-Jean-Vianney landslides and the 1996 catastrophic
flood, which swept more than 15 106 m3 of sediment into
3. MATERIALS AND METHODS the Saguenay Fjord (Lapointe et al., 1998). The thickness of
deposited layers is ranging from few centimetres to several
Rheological investigations were carried out on the selected meters. In particular, it is now well known that the major
materials: St-Alban clays, Baie des Ha!Ha!, La Valette epicentre of 1663 earthquake was located in the vicinity of
soils, and iron ore tailings. The main geotechnical param- the Baie des Ha!Ha! that have revealed, from multibeam
eters are summarized in Table 1. These soil samples are bathymetry and seismic reflection surveys, the presence of
known as a low activity clay and silt-rich soil (Jeong et al., a fault-like deformation possibly linked to terrestrial frac-
Table 1. Geotechnical parameters of selected soils
Soils wL (%) wp (%) Ip (%) S.S S (g/L) CF (%)
Baie des Ha!Ha! 35.9 20.3 15.6 20.3 21.5 35
St-Alban 36.1 18.7 17.4 52.5 0.3 46
La Valettea 39 23 16.5 27 30
Iron ore tailingsa 22.6 17.6 4.9 22
average value. wL = liquid limit; wp = plastic limit; Ip = plasticity index; S.S = specific area (m2/g); S = salinity (g/L); CF = clay fraction (%).
362 Sueng Won Jeong

tures (Locat et al., 2003). The Baie des Ha!Ha! samples are dynamic response, and (3) hysteresis. However, the primary
composed of clayey silts: clay (25%), silt (55%), and fine intent of this work is to examine the steady state and dynamic
sand (<10%), having mostly quartz and feldspars, and some response under controlled torques.
traces of organic matter, pyrite and mica.
In the Barcelonnette basin (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, 4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
France), La Valette landslide occurred at the northwest part
of Barcelonnette city, on the right side of Ubaye river. The 4.1. Geotechnical and Rheological Properties of Fine-
materials tested were taken from debris at the tip of La Val- grained Soils
ette landslide. According to Colas and Locat (1992), La
Valette landslide and sporadic debris flows are approxi- Natural clayey soils have characteristics of a pseudoplas-
mately up to 9 million of m3. Due to snow melting and heavy tic fluid (denoted as shear thinning fluid), with a decrease in
rainfalls, landslides and subsequent debris flows could be viscosity as shear rate increases, whereas some soils are
initiated overlying stratified black marl called Terres Noires. close to a Bingham-like fluid. In general, the latter is most
La Valette soils are characterized by their high percentage likely to transform with increasing water content (Locat,
of gravel (37%), sand (32%) and silt (20%), but relatively 1997). This phenomenon can be easily expressed in terms
small percentage of clays (11%). Viscometric tests were done of the relationship between viscosity and shear rate, which
on the samples passing 0.075 mm sieve. Thus, the samples is good tool to analyze an unclear flow behavior. Figure 4
are considered fine-grained; they are relatively inactive and presents the flow curves in a linear (shear stress, shear
inorganic materials with medium plasticity (i.e., IP = 17%). rate, ) and logarithmic (viscosity, shear rate, ) plot
They are composed mostly of quartz and calcite, and traces for the examined soils. Based on the data compiled from
of feldspars. The principal clay minerals are chlorite and Jeong (2006), rheological parameters obtained from Bing-
illite, with possibility of low concentration of inter-stratified ham and Herschel-Bulkley models are summarized in Table
minerals. According to Malet et al. (2002), there is no swelling 2. For the St-Alban clays (Figs. 4a and b), test results
clay in these formations. Iron ore tailings essentially contain revealed that the soil sample exhibited a pseudoplastic flow
silt-sized particles with a very small amount of clay. The characteristic, regardless of change in liquidity index and
materials were taken from Wabush Lake, Newfoundland, salinity. Similar test results are observed for La Valette soils
Canada. This work was initially related to the application of and numerous clayey soils (Jeong, 2006). It appears that the
rheology to solve the tailings disposal problems. They are limited flow curve in La Valette soils can be traced due to
composed of fine sand (40%), silt (50%), and clay (10%). For low percentage of water content less than 100%. It is of
fine-grained soil (less than 0.075 mm), the samples were interest to note that, for the Baie des Ha!Ha! even fine-
sedimented and stored in jug under water during 24 hours grained soils used, a pseudo-yielding phenomenon is
without any chemical modification. Then, samples were air- observed at low shear rates. Barnes (1999) explained this
dried. They are composed about 80% of silts and 20% of observation as being generally deduced from the slip effects
clays, but at least lesser sands. in rheometer, especially for very low shear rates say, a
A rotational coaxial cylinder viscometer is often used to production of pseudo-Newtonian plateau. For iron ore tail-
measure the viscosity in a variety of research activities and ings, soil samples exhibited the transitional behavior from a
developments in laboratories. This is possible due to a rel- pseudoplastic to a Bingham-like in the range of water con-
atively low cost device, easily automated of simple opera- tent of 2645%. Similar results were presented by Major
tion, and not labor intensive, like many other rheometers. and Pierson (1992). The evidence is indisputable when the
The rheological analysis of the sediments was carried out liquidity index was increased. Figure 5 shows the flow
using a Rotovisco RV-12 coaxial cylinder viscometer (Searle behavior of St-Alban clays for a given condition: liquidity
type). The shear rate can be imposed by the rotational speed index, IL = 1.97; salinity, S = 1.0 g/L; yield stress, y = 152
varying from about 0.5 to 1200 s1. In order to avoid the dif- Pa, and viscosity, p = 0.1 Pas. These values are chosen
ficulty of measurements, sand-sized particles (>0.075 mm) arbitrarily. The purpose of Figure 5 is to examine the flow
from soil samples are removed for viscometric tests. To do behavior as a function of viscosity control at the same phys-
so, soil samples are sieved using #200 sieve, if necessary. icochemical condition (i.e., same liquidity index and salin-
The rheological tests are then conducted on the fine-grained ity). The St-Alban clay exhibits distinct pseudoplastic, but a
soils with clay fraction having 2235% (Table 1). Firstly, significant change in flow behavior is observed when plas-
the samples were thoroughly mixed to ensure complete tic viscosity is progressively increased from 0.1 to 5.0 Pas:
homogenization to achieve desirable soil condition. Then, i.e., from pseudoplastic to ideal Bingham. The experimental
the samples were then left to rest for at least 30 to 60 min- results revealed that these materials exhibit entirely pseudo-
utes to allow hydration of the soil particles. The procedure plastic behavior and have values of n between 0.1 and 0.5
is described in detail by Locat and Demers (1988). Three (Jeong et al., 2009). However, for other very soft muddy
types of tests were generally performed: (1) steady-state, (2) materials, the plastic viscosity varies between 0.01 to 1 Pas
Grain size dependent rheology on the mobility of debris flows 363

Fig. 4. Flow curves of examined soils:

shear stress versus shear rate (a, c, e,
and g) and viscosity versus shear rate
(b, d, f, and h). Data from Jeong

(Jeong et al., 2010). Ha!Ha! samples. For the materials whose solid concentra-
There is still little controversy on the flow behaviors of tion in a sediment-water system is relatively high, indeed, it
non-Newtonian yield stress fluids. Figure 6 gives an exam- is difficult to determine the rheological parameters and tend
ple of dilatant behavior, i.e., the reaching maximum of yield to underestimate the value of yield strength (Phillips and
stress at very low shear rates (less than 10 s1), but the mix- Davies, 1991; Jeong, 2006). It may provide a clue to gain
tures exhibit primarily pseudoplastic behavior under a wide insight into a pseudo-yielding phenomenon as indicated in
variety of shear rates. The shear stress is declined markedly Figure 4d. Technically, it may be due to the fact that the
after the maximum value. As shown in Figure 6a, there are tests were completely too early to well define the flow in
two types of yield stress: dynamic and static yield stress the plastic domain. This is seen regardless of type of grain
(Cheng, 1986). Comparing with other natural clayey soils, size (e.g., Coussot et al., 1998). The points to be emphasi-
the flow behavior of Baie des Ha!Ha! (upper Saguenay zed here are grain-size dependent rheology of materials.
Fjord, Qubec, Canada) is a good example to identify flow The influence of clay minerals on the rheological behavior
characteristics. Figure 6b is hysteresis curve of Baie des is beyond the scope of this study. Physically, it may be due
364 Sueng Won Jeong

Table 2. Rheological parameters obtained from the fine-grained soils (data from Jeong, 2006)
model Bingham Herschel-Bulkley
Soil sample
IL S (g/L) y-B (Pa) h (mPa.s) r2 y-HB (Pa) K n r2
2.2 1.0 96.8 75.6 0.827 87.9 2.77 0.416 0.955
2.6 1.0 48.7 41.8 0.803 0.98 0.500 0.968
3.0 1.0 27.3 23.7 0.990 25.7 0.10 0.810 0.999
3.0 2.0 39.5 29.6 0.970 36.1 0.50 0.560 0.976
3.0 4.0 49.6 31.0 0.910 41.7 1.90 0.380 0.987
3.0 10.0 59.7 32.0 0.900 51.1 2.90 0.320 0.979
3.0 29.2 67.3 32.3 0.700 47.4 10.70 0.170 0.958
wL = 35.9%; wp = 20.3%
Baie des 2.2 21.5 201.7 123.8 0.259 39.1 148.33 0.038 0.590
Ha !Ha ! 2.6 21.5 101.8 51.4 0.362 34.9 55.94 0.063 0.727
(Saguenay 3.1 21.5 71.9 40.2 0.520 24.6 39.33 0.100 0.728
Fjord) 3.5 21.5 39.3 28.2 0.694 14.6 17.28 0.138 0.726
4.2 21.5 19.6 22.8 0.928 15.5 1.95 0.330 0.937
wL = 41.0%; wp = 25.0%
w = 60% 403.9 649.8 0.661 129.0 111.46 0.248 0.992
66 341.9 547.8 0.650 111.5 87.45 0.265 0.970
70 215.1 337.8 0.659 74.5 58.97 0.242 0.995
La Valette 80 125.8 185.2 0.707 52.8 26.59 0.274 0.992
92 75.6 36.6 0.820 35.4 7.11 0.347 0.995
94 82.4 76.8 0.827 49.1 6.74 0.381 0.997
99 71.9 37.2 0.847 36.9 5.41 0.377 0.996
101 47.5 24.9 0.871 26.4 2.73 0.411 0.997
wL = 22.3%; wp = 18.5%
2.1 89.5 1129.3 0.987 8.3 3.66 0.838 0.986
2.2 87.6 1095.2 0.988 29.3 2.01 0.925 0.993
2.3 70.9 1190.3 0.989 30.0 3.78 0.814 0.996
2.5 56.0 471.8 0.977 7.9 3.66 0.698 1.000
2.8 56.9 521.1 0.980 8.2 2.60 0.780 1.000
wL = 22.9%; wp = 16.7%
iron ore
1.1 63.1 1044.5 0.977 11.4 3.82 0.816 0.994
1.3 89.6 407.2 0.948 18.4 3.91 0.702 0.995
1.4 67.8 310.7 0.939 13.2 5.34 0.592 0.993
1.6 10.6 72.0 0.997 8.1 0.39 0.746 0.987
1.9 9.5 47.2 0.997 7.4 0.58 0.608 0.977
2.0 7.6 37.1 0.997 5.8 0.41 0.626 0.979
2.2 4.8 31.0 0.999 6.4 0.08 0.864 0.999
3.0 1.9 25.8 0.999 2.3 0.08 0.864 0.999
IL = liquidity index; Ip = plasticity index; S = salinity (g/L); K = consistency coefficient; n = flow behavior index; r2 = coefficient of deter-
mination; w = water content; wL = liquid limit; wp = plastic limit; y-B (Pa) = Bingham yield stress; y-HB (Pa) = Herschel-Bulkley yield stress;
h (mPas) = plastic viscosity.

to the fact that a relatively low yield stress and a high plas- ture change as the rate of shearing (rpm) increases from
tic viscosity could be related to a low bounding strength of zero (Phillips and Davies, 1991). This behavior was also
flocs. Similar behaviors were also observed for the flow found for fresh concrete mixtures with change of concrete
curves on the Louiseville clay and Trois-Rivires silt mix- volumes (Ukraincik, 1980), where the yield point has a
tures (Jeong, 2006) that show dilatant flow behaviors at low higher torque value, due to the structural changes, than that
shear rates when the silt percentage is over 80%, even at higher rotation rate. The structural modification with high
though the scatter is significant. It is believed that the mate- solid content mixtures was discussed by Major and Pierson
rials tested could be slipped or underwent a packing/struc- (1992) who pointed out that grain interlocking and collision
Grain size dependent rheology on the mobility of debris flows 365

shown for: (a) the apparent yield stress and plastic viscosity,
(b) liquidity index and plastic viscosity, and (c) liquidity
index and apparent yield stress. These relationships are
much better for a sensitive soil particularly for inorganic
natural clayey soils. For sensitive clays, the plastic viscosity
only represents about 1/1000th of the total shearing resis-
tance of the mixture (Locat, 1997). For fine-grained soils,
Locat (1997) and Jeong (2006) examined that the yield
stress and viscosity with increasing liquidity index are pre-
sented within a boundary zone in Figures 7a and b. Salinity
can affect the yield stress measurements as shown in Figure
7c. For examples, two curves were plotted by Locat (1997)
for 0 g/L and 30 g/L salinity. These findings can be used for
a preliminary numerical analysis for describing run-out dis-
tance (Kvalstad et al., 2005; Locat et al., 2004).
Fig. 5. Flow behaviors depending on plastic viscosity, showing
4.2. Grain-size Dependent Rheology in Debris Flow
ideal Bingham and pseudoplastic flow behaviors (given condition
of St-Alban clay: IL = 1.97, Salinity = 1.0 g/L, y = 152 Pa, and p Materials
= 0.1 Pa.s).
OBrien and Julien (1988) demonstrated that both yield
stress and viscosity increase exponentially with concentra-
can cause changes in packing density, particle distribution, tion of solid. The fines-laden debris flows play an important
grain orientation, and formation and destruction of grain rule on the mobility when they are in excess of 10 to 25%
clusters. (Coussot et al., 1998; Parsons et al., 2001; Syvitski and
Locat and Demers (1988) presented the link between Hutton, 2003; Rematre et al., 2005), yielding a fluid-like
geotechnical and rheological behavior of natural soft clays behavior. The grain size distribution and the soil plasticity
within the limited range of measurable shear rates (e.g., typ- of the mixtures are key factors which influence the differ-
ically from 102 to 103 s1). The viscometric results are gen- entiated response of mixtures to mass movement (Malet et
erally presented in a semi-logarithm or loglog diagram of al., 2003). In fact, natural debris flows can be characterized
rheological and geotechnical parameters with regard to by various grain sizes. Most reported rheological properties
liquidity index. Assuming that the flow behaves as a Bing- of debris-flow materials have been restricted to the fine
ham fluid, there is the relationship between plastic viscosity slurries that form the interstitial fluid in a granular debris
(p, in mPas) and yield stress (y, in Pa) measured at var- flow (OBrien and Julien, 1988; Coussot et al., 1998). Major
ious liquidity indices. Empirical relationships with test and Pierson (1992) have presented that yield strength and
results obtained from Baie des Ha!Ha! samples (Fig. 7) are plastic viscosity of fine-grained mixtures exhibit an order-

Fig. 6. Relationship between shear stress and shear rate. (a) Schematic view of flow curves with dynamic and static yield stress; (b) dila-
tant plastic behavior of Baie des Ha!Ha! samples at low shear rates.
366 Sueng Won Jeong

Fig. 8. Relationship between yield stress and plastic viscosity. La

Valette and iron ore tailings. Data from Jeong et al. (2010).

and Lee, 2002).

Comparing rheological properties between iron ore tail-
ings and La Valette soils (Fig. 8), the difference indeed is
large. La Valette soils were taken from debris flow mate-
rials in the French Alps. The flow behavior belongs to the
category of pseudoplastic because La Valette samples have
a high silt and clay content (from 25 to 40%). The flow
behaviors of La Valette soils are very similar to those of
natural softy clays in that the relationship of yield stress
versus plastic viscosity with respect to liquidity index is in
good agreement with the expected relationship. The iron
ore tailings were taken from Wabush Lake, Newfoundland,
Canada. They are mainly composed of silt-sized materials
with small sand-size particles (more than 75%). This may
cause the difficulty of determination of Atterberg limits or
its inherent soil problem. Except for the y p relationship,
the rheological properties cannot be compared with those
obtained from other soils (Jeong et al., 2010). From the
dynamic responses, at the same liquidity index, the values
of yield stress and plastic viscosity are much higher than the
expected such as Baie des Ha!Ha! and St-Alban soils. In
parallel with the empirical relationship for soft clayey mate-
rials (Locat, 1997), Figure 8 shows that the relationship
between the yield stress (y) and plastic viscosity (p) can
Fig. 7. Geotechnical and rheological properties of Bais des Ha!Ha! extend the possible range of low plastic soils. The possible
samples. (a) yield stress and plastic viscosity; (b) liquidity index transition may be linked to the boundary line from typical
and plastic viscosity; (c) liquidity index and yield stress.
clay-rich soils to silt/sand-rich soils. Arrows indicate the
direction of increase in the size of soil particles. As pre-
of-magnitude variation when sediment concentration changes liminarily examined by Jeong et al. (2007), the plastic vis-
as little as 2 to 4%. Thus, the rheological characteristics of cosity against shearing resistance relationship could provide
debris flows may be influenced by the presence of coarse much higher value than for clayey soils. For the iron ore
particles. The rheology on the transition from fine-grained tailings that are mostly composed of silt-sized particles, the
to coarse-grained soils is of paramount importance, even in plastic viscosity could represent about 1/100th of the total
the case that a small amount of coarse particles in slurry shearing resistance of the mixture, whereas the flow behav-
flows does not greatly influence the fluid properties (Chen ior of St-Alban, Baie des Ha!Ha!, and La Valette soils is
Grain size dependent rheology on the mobility of debris flows 367

very close to that of natural softy clays (Jeong et al., 2010).

To clarify the nature of the transition between viscous and
granular flow, a series of similar laboratory experiments
should be preformed, so that little change of clay fraction or
proportion of silt and sand particles can strongly modify the
flow behavior. In general, with increase in clay and sand
content, debris flow rheology tends to be more Bingham-
like behavior. Coarse-grained soils have a little yield value,
but closer to a linear viscous flow for shear stresses exceed-
ing the yield stress. Fine-grained soils, on the other hand,
have a distinct pseudoplastic characteristic.

4.3. Mobility of Landslide/Debris Flow Related to Soil


It is now well known that submarine landslides are much Fig. 9. Relationship between flow thickness and slope angle (deg.).
more mobile and tend to involve larger volumes than sub-
aerial landslides. Remarkable examples of submarine land- slope angle in degree. For a salinity of 30 g/L (see equation
slides are the Storegga slides (Mienert, 2004), the Canary in Fig. 7), the coupling relation is given by:
slides (Canals et al., 2004), the 1929 Grand Banks slides 3.1
( 12.1 IL )
(Locat and Lee, 2002) and the Mississippi Fan, the Gulf of Hf = -------------------------
-. (5)
Mexico (Locat et al., 1996) which have a large runout dis-
tance in excess of 500 km. The possible mechanism can be As incorporating with Johnson and Rodine (1984) expres-
explained by means of the flow transformation in subma- sion and empirical rheological relationships, debris flow
rine landslides (Jeong, 2006). After the onset of failure, the mobility using a simple runout model can be linked to a
soil could experience a large deformation with ambient parametric analysis with soil plasticity. Figure 9 shows the
water, and thus the characteristics of sediments are most influence of critical flow thickness on slope angle in the
likely governed by the rheological properties of the remoul- range of liquidity index from 2 to 4. One can evaluate the
ded soil. range of the yield strength for the observed field thick-
To estimate the flow behavior of a field debris flow, the ness, even for very low slope angle, which may be as low
rheological parameters used in the compatible model must as 1 degree, encountered in submarine landslides. Ulti-
be similar to real field conditions. To evaluate the runout mately, flow transformation related to strength parameter
characteristics of the moving mass, a preliminary analysis and the preliminary rheological analysis can help to
should be carried out for rheological properties (Huang and examine the debris flow mobility in response to rheolog-
Garcia, 1999; Imran et al., 2001; Locat et al., 2004; Mohrig ical properties.
et al., 1999). Assuming that a debris flow behaves as a In describing the physics of debris flows by means of
Bingham-like fluid, apparent yield stress and plastic viscos- flume experiments and mathematical modeling, fines are
ity could influence the runout distance and front velocity of incorporated as the flows run through a matrix. As a result,
moving mass. The evolution of the front velocity strongly the flow becomes fines-laden (silt-clay contents in excess of
depends on the dynamic viscosity of the debris material 25%) and exhibits fluid-like behavior (e.g., non-slip condi-
(Imran et al., 2001). On the other hand, high yield strengths tion) while the front remains granular. All of these flows
can produce relatively short run-out distances (Elverhi et were assumed to be laminar (Iverson, 1997). Assessments
al., 1997). As proposed by Johnson and Rodine (1984), and of natural debris flows typically estimate shear rate ( ) by
assuming that the debris flow rheology can be approxi- dividing the front velocity by the flow depth (Phillips and
mated by Bingham fluid, the average flow depth, at which Davies, 1991; Iverson, 1997; Parsons et al., 2001). Typical
the flow stops, would correspond to the average thickness velocities for mud-flow are not greater than 10 m/s, which
in the depositional zone (Hf). Critical thickness can be would correspond to a mean shear rate of 10 s1 even
derived from the following equation: though it is only a few meters thick. As can be seen in Fig-
ure 9, the flow thickness (Hf) decreases with increasing
ya = Hf sin (4) slope angle (and/or liquidity index). From Hf = 1 m and IL
= 2.5, slope angle () gives 1.2. This value is in the range
where ya is apparent yield stress determined from the Bing- between the angle of continental slope, which can be as low
ham or bilinear model, ' is buoyant unit weight of the as 1 (dashed line), and the average angle of continental slope
debris flow mixture (typically about 15 kN/m3) and is (3 dashed line), but mostly likely insufficient to cause a
368 Sueng Won Jeong

complete deformation to fluidize it. Possible influence of reviewing this manuscript. This work was partially supported by the
thixotropy on mudflow behavior with a wide range of solid International Research & Development Program of the National
concentration and salinity is discussed by Perret et al. (1996). Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Edu-
cation, Science and Technology (MEST) of Korea (Grant number:
A deceleration or acceleration of the mass in landslide 2010-00741, FY2010).
motion should have a minor effect on the flow behavior in
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