, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 83–98 | Cite as

Characteristics and numerical runout modelling of a catastrophic rock avalanche triggered by the Wenchuan earthquake in the Wenjia valley, Mianzhu, Sichuan, China

  • Aiguo Xing
  • Xiaoyi Yuan
  • Qiang Xu
  • Qihua Zhao
  • Heqing Huang
  • Qiangong Cheng
Original Paper


The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake triggered more than 100 rock avalanches with volumes greater than 10 million cubic metres. The rock avalanche with the longest runout amongst these destructive landslides occurred in the Wenjia valley, Mianzhu, Sichuan, China. The landslide involved the failure of about 27.5 million cubic metres of sandstone from the source area. The displaced material travelled about 4,170 m with an elevation descent of about 1,360 m, equivalent to a fahrböschung of 16.9° and covered an area of 1.5 million square metres, with the final deposited volume of approximately 49 million cubic metres. The catastrophic event destroyed the village of Yanjing, killed 48 people and buried some houses at the mouth of the Wenjia valley. On the basis of a detailed field investigation, we introduce basic characteristics of the rock avalanche and find that the rock avalanche resulted in two run-ups and a superelevation along the runout path, and downslope enlargement due to the entrainment of path materials. A numerical model (DAN3D) is used to simulate the post-failure behaviour of the rock avalanche. By means of trial and error, a combination of the frictional model and Voellmy model is found to provide the best performance in simulating this rock avalanche. The simulation results reveal that the rock avalanche had a duration of about 240 s and an average velocity of 17.4 m/s.


Rock avalanche Post-failure behaviour Numerical modelling DAN3D model Wenchuan earthquake 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (nos. 41530639 and 41272382) and National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars (no. 41225011). We are grateful to Prof. O. Hungr for supplying a copy of the DAN3D software.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aiguo Xing
    • 1
  • Xiaoyi Yuan
    • 1
  • Qiang Xu
    • 2
  • Qihua Zhao
    • 2
  • Heqing Huang
    • 3
  • Qiangong Cheng
    • 4
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Ocean EngineeringShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Geohazard Prevention and Geoenvironment ProtectionChengdu University of TechnologyChengduChina
  3. 3.Second Highway Consultant Co. LtdChina Communications Construction Company LimitedWuhanChina
  4. 4.Faculty of Geosciences and Environmental and EngineeringSouthwest Jiaotong UniversityChengduChina

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