The failure of a lava dam 165,000 yr ago produced the largest known flood on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. The Hyaloclastite Dam was up to 366 m high, and geochemical evidence linked this structure to outburst-flood deposits that occurred for 32 km downstream. Using the Hyaloclastite outburst-flood deposits as paleostage indicators, we used dam-failure and unsteady flow modeling to estimate a peak discharge and flow hydrograph. Failure of the Hyaloclastite Dam released a maximum 11 ?? 109 m3 of water in 31 h. Peak discharges, estimated from uncertainty in channel geometry, dam height, and hydraulic characteristics, ranged from 2.3 to 5.3 ?? 105 m3 s-1 for the Hyaloclastite outburst flood. This discharge is an order of magnitude greater than the largest known discharge on the Colorado River (1.4 ?? 104 m3 s-1) and the largest peak discharge resulting from failure of a constructed dam in the USA (6.5 ?? 104 m3 s-1). Moreover, the Hyaloclastite outburst flood is the oldest documented Quaternary flood and one of the largest to have occurred in the continental USA. The peak discharge for this flood ranks in the top 30 floods (>105 m3 s-1) known worldwide and in the top ten largest floods in North America. ?? 2005 University of Washington. All rights reserved.
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Peak discharge of a Pleistocene lava-dam outburst flood in Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA