Rainfall-triggered debris flows following the Wenchuan earthquake

  • C. TangEmail author
  • J. Zhu
  • W. L. Li
  • J. T. Liang
Original Paper


On 24 September 2008, 72 debris flows were triggered by heavy rainfall in the central part of the area affected by the Wenchuan Earthquake. This paper describes the process of debris-flow initiation and transport in the study areas and presents field observations on the roles of rainfall, lithology and the presence of faults. It is likely that following the ground shaking, the critical amount of accumulated precipitation and the hourly rainfall intensity necessary to initiate debris flow was reduced compared with values before the earthquake. A case study in the Xishanpo gully is presented; the debris flow from which caused a thick accumulation in the already devastated city of Beichuan. It is concluded that the whole of the area shaken by the Wenchuan Earthquake is now more susceptible to debris flows, which may be initiated by localized heavy rainfall. Care must be taken to properly assess this new type of geo-hazard.


Debris flows Intensive rainfall Accumulated precipitation Lithology Wenchuan earthquake Rainfall conditions Seismic landslides 



Funding was provided by 973 Program (2008CB425801) and the National Foundation for Natural Science of China (40772206). We thank Niek Rengers for his comments and suggestions on earlier versions of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Geo-Hazard Prevention and Geo-Environment ProtectionChengdu University of TechnologyChengduChina

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