Conference paper
Part of the NATO Science Series book series (NAIV, volume 49)


Physically based mathematical models and statistically based empirical equations each may provide useful means of forecasting runout of rock and debris avalanches. This paper compares the foundations, strengths, and limitations of a physically based model and a statistically based forecasting method, both of which were developed to predict runout across three-dimensional topography. The chief advantage of the physically based model results from its ties to physical conservation laws and well-tested axioms of soil and rock mechanics, such as the Coulomb friction rule and effective-stress principle. The output of this model provides detailed information about the dynamics of avalanche runout, at the expense of high demands for accurate input data, numerical computation, and experimental testing. In comparison, the statistical method requires relatively modest computation and no input data except identification of prospective avalanche source areas and a range of postulated avalanche volumes. Like the physically based model, the statistical method yields maps of predicted runout, but it provides no information on runout dynamics. Although the two methods differ significantly in their structure and objectives, insights gained from one method can aid refinement of the other.


Debris Flow Hazard Zone Rock Avalanche Debris Avalanche Inundation Area 
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© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

    • 1
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey 1300 SE Cardinal Ct. #100VancouverUSA

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