Developments and Applications of Geomorphology

pp 268-317

Physical Geomorphology of Debris Flows

  • John E. CostaAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of Denver

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Debris flows claim hundreds of lives and cause millions of dollars of property damage throughout the world each year. In Japan alone, an average 90 lives are lost annually from debris flows (Takahashi 1981). In 1970 a debris avalanche (a rapidly moving form of debris flow) triggered by an earthquake, completely destroyed the city of Yungay, Peru, killing an estimated 17,000 people and burying the whole city under 5 m of mud and debris (Plafker and Erickson 1978). Some countries with chronic losses from debris flows include Japan (Okuda et al. 1980); United States (Committee on Methodologies for Predicting Mudflow Areas, 1982; Scott 1972; Cummans 1981; Scott 1971; Flaccus 1958; Williams and Guy 1973; Woolley 1946; Morton and Campbell 1974); Indonesia (Scrivenor 1929); Tanzania (Temple and Rapp 1972); Scandinavia (Rapp and Stromquist 1976); Costa Rica (Waldron 1967); China (Li and Luo 1981; Chinese Society of Hydraulic Engineering 1980); Brazil (Jones 1973); Ireland (Prior et al. 1968); Romania (Balteanu 1976); India (Starkel 1972); Bangladesh (Wasson 1978); New Zealand (Selby 1967; Pierson 1980a, b); and the Soviet Union (Gol’din and Lyubashevskiy 1966; Niyazov and Degovets 1975; Gagoshidze 1969).