The severe rainstorm of January 3, 4 and 5, 1982, in the San Francisco Bay area, California, produced numerous landslides, many of which transformed into damaging debris flows. The process of transformation was studied in detail at one site where only part of a landslide mobilized into several episodes of debris flow. The focus of our investigation was to learn whether the landslide debris dilated or contracted during the transformation from slide to flow. The landslide debris consisted of sandy colluvium that was separable into three soil horizons that occupied the axis of a small topographic swale. Failure involved the entire thickness of colluvium; however, over parts of the landslide, the soil A-horizon failed separately from the remainder of the colluvium. Undisturbed samples were taken for density measurements from outside the landslide, from the failure zone and overlying material from the part of the landslide that did not mobilize into debris flows, and from the debris-flow deposits. The soil A-horizon was contractive and mobilized to flows in a process analogous to liquefaction of loose, granular soils during earthquakes. The soil B- and C-horizons were dilative and underwent 2 to 5% volumetric expansion during landslide movement that permitted mobilization of debris-flow episodes. Several criteria can be used in the field to differentiate between contractive and dilative behavior including lag time between landsliding and mobilization of flow, episodic mobilization of flows, and partial or complete transformation of the landslide. ?? 1989.
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Transformation of dilative and contractive landslide debris into debris flows-An example from marin County, California