Comparison of the responses of three drainage basins burned by the Dome fire of 1996 in New Mexico is used to identify the hillslope, channel and fire characteristics that indicate a susceptibility specifically to wildfire-related debris flow. Summer thunderstorms generated three distinct erosive responses from each of three basins. The Capulin Canyon basin showed widespread erosive sheetwash and rilling from hillslopes, and severe flooding occurred in the channel; the North Tributary basin exhibited extensive erosion of the mineral soil to a depth of 5 cm and downslope movement of up to boulder-sized material, and at least one debris flow occurred in the channel; negligible surface runoff was observed in the South Tributary basin. The negligible surface runoff observed in the South Tributary basin is attributed to the limited extent and severity of the fire in that basin. The factors that best distinguish between debris-flow producing and flood-producing drainages are drainage basin morphology and lithology. A rugged drainage basin morphology, an average 12 per cent channel gradient, and steep, rough hillslopes coupled with colluvium and soil weathered from volcaniclastic and volcanic rocks promoted the generation of debris flows. A less rugged basin morphology, an average gradient of 5 per cent, and long, smooth slopes mantled with pumice promoted flooding. Flood and debris-flow responses were produced without the presence of water-repellent soils. The continuity and severity of the burn mosaic, the condition of the riparian vegetation, the condition of the fibrous root mat, accumulations of dry ravel and colluvial material in the channel and on hillslopes, and past debris-flow activity, appeared to have little bearing on the distinctive responses of the basins. Published in 2000 by John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.
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Conditions for generation of fire-related debris flows, Capulin Canyon, New Mexico