Initiation of debris flows in tributaries of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, Arizona

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Debris flows are initiated in tributaries of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon when intense rainfall causes failures in colluvium and (or) bedrock. Most debris flows occur in the summer during localized convective thunderstorms with rainfall intensities as high as 40 mm/hr. Rarer and larger debris flows occur during unusually warm frontal storms in winter. Hourly precipitation data suggest that storms that cause debris flows terminate with a period of intense rainfall, a characteristic that complicates the use of daily rainfall records in assessing debris-flow hazard. Recurrence intervals for 1-day rainfall associated with 37 recent debris flows range from <1 to >50 years, with most <10 years. Recurrence intervals for the multi-day rainfall of storms associated with debris flows range from <1 to 158 years, but most were >10 years. The low recurrence intervals of debris-flow producing rainfalls, compared with the 10-50 yr recurrence intervals for most debris flows, underscores the co-dependence of debris-flow initiation on geologic factors, including bedrock type and antecedent soil-moisture conditions. The primary geologic factor influencing debris-flow initiation in Grand Canyon is the exposure of shale units at heights >100 m above the river. Exposed shale bedrock fails readily, either producing debris flows directly or contributing source material to wedges of colluvium that may fail later. Shales also provide silt- and clay-size particles that in part determine the rheological properties of debris flows.

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Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Initiation of debris flows in tributaries of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, Arizona
Year Published 1997
Language English
Publisher American Society of Civil Engineers
Contributing office(s) Rocky Mountain Regional Office
Description 9 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the 1997 1st international conference on debris-flow hazards mitigation: Mechanics, prediction, and assessment
First page 12
Last page 20
Conference Title International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation: Mechanics, Prediction, and Assessment
Conference Location San Francisco, CA
Conference Date Aug 7-9, 1997
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial Colorado River, Grand Canyon
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