Skip to main content

Recent debris flows in the Portainé catchment (Eastern Pyrenees, Spain): analysis of monitoring and field data focussing on the 2015 event


During the night of the 21 August 2015, a debris flow took place in one of the presently most active ravines of the Pyrenees, the Portainé torrent (Eastern Pyrenees, Spain), and caused considerable damage to the road. Detailed information was gathered from the debris flow monitoring system recently installed in the torrent and field surveys. The monitoring system measures ground vibration at geophones and flow height at an ultrasonic sensor. Meteorological data showed that the debris flow was triggered by a convective rainstorm with a total rainfall amount of 29 mm. All these data provide information on the debris flow occurrence and dynamics. The analysis of the data showed that the debris flow had three different surges and mobilised a total volume of about 2130 m3. The front velocity in the monitoring reach was somewhat small (about 2 m/s) and the peak flow discharge comparatively low (about 13 m3/s). In addition, the debris flow was back-analysed by a numerical model calibrated by the observed event. The results of the simulation showed that a Voellmy fluid rheological model can represent considerably well the recorded and observed measurements, and the best-fit values were μ = 0.28 and C = 8 m0.5/s.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  • Abancó C, Hürlimann M (2014) Estimate of the debris-flow entrainment using field and topographical data. Nat Hazards 71(1):363–383

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Abancó C, Hürlimann M, Moya J, Berenguer M (2016) Critical rainfall conditions for the initiation of torrential flows. Results from the Rebaixader catchment (Central Pyrenees). J Hydrol 541:218–229

  • Ayotte D, Hungr O (2000) Calibration of a runout prediction model for debris-flows and avalanches. In: GF Wieczorek GF, Naeser ND (ed) Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation: Mechanics, Prediction, and Assessment: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation. Taipei, Taiwan, pp 505–514

  • Balasch J, Becat J, Marugán C et al (2008) Les riuades del segle XX al Pallars Sobirà: 1907, 1937 i 1982. Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona 240pp

    Google Scholar 

  • Bovis MJ, Jakob M (1999) The role of debris supply conditions in predicting debris flow activity. Earth Surf Process Land 24:1039–1054

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Caine N (1980) The rainfall intensity-duration control of shallow landslides and debris flows. Geogr Ann 62A:23–27

  • Chevalier GG, Medina V, Hürlimann M, Bateman A (2013) Debris-flow susceptibility analysis using fluvio-morphological parameters and data mining: application to the Central-Eastern Pyrenees. Nat Hazards 67(2):213–238

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Corominas J, Alonso EE (1990) Geomorphological effects of extreme floods (November 1982) in the southern Pyrenees. In 2nd symposium of hydrology in mountainous regions artificial reservoirs: water and slopes Lausanne 194:295–302

    Google Scholar 

  • Deganutti AM, Marchi L, Arattano M (2000) Rainfall and debris-flow occurrence in the Moscardo basin (Italian Alps). In: Wieczorek GF, Naeser ND (eds) 2nd International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation. Balkema, pp 67–72

  • Fañanás C, Aguilar N, Raïmat C, Fonseca R (2009) Corrección hidrológica en el barranco de Portainé. In: Alonso E, Corminas J, Hürlimann M (eds) VII Simposio Nacional sobre Taludes y Laderas Insestables. Barcelona, pp 27–30

  • Furdada G, de las Heras, A, Díez-Herrero A, Martins L, Fernández-Yuste JA, Victoriano A (2017). The impact of land-use changes on palaeoflood and recent floods magnitude and frequency: Portainé (Eastern Pyrenees, Iberian Peninsula). Past Global Changes Open Science Meeting 2017. Zaragoza

  • Furdada G, Génova G, Guinau M, Victoriano A, Khazaradze G, Díez-Herrero A, Calvet J (2016) Las avenidas torrenciales de los barrancos de Portainé, Reguerals y Ramaiosa (Pirineo Central): evolución de las cuencas y dinámica torrencial. In: Durán Valsero J.J., Montes Santiago M., Robador Moreno, A., Salazar Rincón A (eds) Comprendiendo el relieve: del pasado al futuro. Instituto Geológico y Minero de España, Geología y Geofísica 5:315–322

    Google Scholar 

  • Gallart F, Clotet N (1988) Some aspects of the geomorphic processes triggered by an extreme rainfall event: the November 1982 flood in the Eastern Pyrenees. Catena Supp 13:79–95

    Google Scholar 

  • García-Oteyza J, Génova M, Calvet J, Furdada G, Guinau M, Díez-Herrero A (2015) Datación de avenidas torrenciales y flujos de derrubios mediante metodologías dendrogeomorfológicas (barranco de Portainé, Lleida, España). Ecosistemas 24(2):43–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Guzzetti F, Peruccacci S, Rossi M, Stark CP (2008) The rainfall intensity-duration control of shallow landslides and debris flows: an update. Landslides 5:3–17

  • Hungr O (1995) A model for the runout analysis of rapid flow slides, debris flows, and avalanches. Can Geotech J 32:610–623

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hungr O, Leroueil S, Picarelli L (2014) The Varnes classification of landslide types, an update. Landslides 11:167–194

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hürlimann M, Rickenmann D, Graf C (2003) Field and monitoring data of debris-flow events in the Swiss Alps. Can Geotech J 40:161–175

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hürlimann M, Abancó C, Moya J, Vilajosana I (2014) Results and experiences gathered at the Rebaixader debris-flow monitoring site, Central Pyrenees, Spain. Landslides 11:939–953

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • ICGC (2015): Geological database of Catalonia—geological map 1:50.000. Accessed 1 July 2016

  • IGC (2010) Nota de la visita al barranc de Portainé (Pallars Sobirà) arran dels episodis de pluges dels dies 22 i 23 de juliol i del 12 d’agost de 2010. Unpublished Technical report of the Catalan Geological Survey (in Catalan). 40 pp

  • Imran J, Parker G, Locat J, Lee H (2001) 1D numerical model of muddy subaqueous and subaerial debris flows. J Hydraul Eng 127:959–968

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jakob M, Anderson D, Fuller T, Hungr O, Ayotte D (2000) An unusually large debris flow at Hummingbird Creek, Mara Lake, British Columbia. Can Geotech J 37:1109–1125

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lorente A, Beguería S, Bathurst JC, García-Ruiz JM (2003) Debris flow characteristics and relationships in the Central Spanish Pyrenees. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 3:683–692

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luis-Fonseca R, Raïmat C, Hürlimann M, Abancó C, Moya J, Fernández J (2011) Debris-flow protection in recurrent areas of the Pyrenees. Experience of the VX systems from output results collected in the pioneer monitoring station in Spain. Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment. doi:10.4408/IJEGE.2011-03.B-115

    Google Scholar 

  • Martín Vide FJ, Olcina Cantos J (2001) Climas y tiempos de España. Alianza Editorial, 258pp

  • Medina V, Hürlimann M, Bateman A (2008) FLATModel: 2D finite volume code for debris-flow modelling. Application to different events occurred in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula. Landslides 5:127–142

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Portilla M (2014) Reconstrucción y Análisis de Movimientos en Masa Generados por Lluvias Históricas en el Pirineo Catalán. PhD-thesis UPC. 401pp

  • Portilla M, Chevalier G, Hürlimann M (2010) Description and analysis of the debris flow occurred during 2008 in the Eastern Pyrenees. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 10:1635–1645

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raïmat C, Luis R, Wendeler C (2010) Behaviour of VX barriers and initial results from the pioneer monitoring station in Erill & Portainé/Spain. Accessed 25 July 2016

  • Rickenmann D (1999) Empirical relationships for debris flows. Nat Hazards 19:47–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rickenmann D, Koch T (1997) Comparison of debris flow modelling approaches. In Chen C.L. (ed) 1st International Conference on Debris Flow Hazards Mitigation: Mechanics, Prediction, and Assessment. San Francisco, California, pp 576–585

  • Rickenmann D, Laigle D, McArdell BW, Hübl J (2006) Comparison of 2-D debris-flow simulation models with field events. Comput Geosci 10:241–264

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Santacana N, Baeza B, Corominas J, Paz AD, Marturia J (2003) A GIS-based multivase statistical analysis for shallow landslide susceptibility mapping in la Pobla del Lillet area (Eastern Pyrenees, Spain). Nat Hazards 30:281–295

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Victoriano A, Guinau M, Furdada G, Calvet J, Cabré M, Moysset M (2016) Aplicación de datos LiDAR en el estudio de la dinámica torrencial y evolución de los barrancos de Portainé y Reguerals (Pirineos Centrales). In: Durán Valsero J.J., Montes Santiago M., Robador Moreno, A., Salazar Rincón A (eds) Comprendiendo el relieve: del pasado al futuro. Instituto Geológico y Minero de España, Geología y Geofísica 5:447–455

  • Wilford DJ, Sakals ME, Innes JL et al (2004) Recognition of debris flow, debris flood and flood hazard through watershed morphometrics. Landslides 1:61–66

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was funded by different research projects of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (DEBRISTART CGL2011-23300, CHARMA CGL2013-40828-R and SMuCPhy BIA2015-67500-R) and by the PyrMove thematic research network (AGAUR 2014CTP00051). We also thank the Catalan Meteorological Service ( for the data supply and Carles Fañanás for the valuable information on the recent and historic events.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marcel Hürlimann.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Palau, R.M., Hürlimann, M., Pinyol, J. et al. Recent debris flows in the Portainé catchment (Eastern Pyrenees, Spain): analysis of monitoring and field data focussing on the 2015 event. Landslides 14, 1161–1170 (2017).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Debris flows
  • Monitoring
  • Rainfall
  • Portainé catchment
  • Pyrenees