Natural dam breaching due to overtopping: effects of initial soil moisture

  • Xiangang JiangEmail author
  • Yunwei Wei
Original Paper


Natural dams formed by landslides may produce disastrous floods after dam outbursts. How the breaching characteristics of natural dams are affected by initial soil moisture has remained insufficiently understood. In this paper, we present the results of a series of laboratory tests that assessed five different initial soil moistures (0.3, 2.4, 4.2, 7.3, and 10.3%). Under the present experimental conditions with dams composed of gravel–sand–clay mixtures, the failure of natural dams was primarily caused by the erosion of overtopping flow, and lateral mass collapse also caused breach widening. According to the test results, three stages of the breaching process of natural dams made of different initial soil moistures were observed. The results show that peak discharge increased with the increase in the initial soil moisture, while the breaching time and height of the residual dam decreased. In the process of the breach, the backward erosion was weakened gradually with the increase in the initial soil moisture. When the initial soil moisture increased, the breach deepened faster than it widened, and the ratio of the breaching width to depth after dam outburst tended to be greater than 1 at first and then less than 1. A function of the breaching width and depth is established, making it possible to calculate both variables. This function is based on a shape parameter that linearly decreases with initial soil moisture.


Natural dam Initial soil moisture Overtopping Laboratory tests 



The author acknowledges the financial support provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 41807289) and Sichuan province fundamental scientific research (no. 18ZA0374).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Civil EngineeringSichuan Agricultural UniversityDujiangyanChina

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