Prediction of Geophysical Flow Mobility

Friday, 19 December 2014: 3:00 PM
Bruno Cagnoli and Antonio Piersanti, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Rome, Italy
The prediction of the mobility of geophysical flows to assess their hazards is one of the main research goals in the earth sciences. Our laboratory experiments and numerical simulations are carried out to understand the effects of grain size and flow volume on the mobility of the centre of mass of dry granular flows of angular rock fragments that have pyroclastic flows and rock avalanches as counterpart in nature. We focus on the centre of mass because it provides information about the intrinsic ability of a flow to dissipate more or less energy as a function of its own features. We show that the grain size and flow volume effects can be expressed by a linear relationship between scaling parameters where the finer the grain size or the smaller the flow volume, the more mobile the centre of mass of the granular flow. The grain size effect is the result of the decrease of particle agitation per unit of flow mass, and thus, the decrease of energy dissipation per unit of travel distance, as grain size decreases. In this sense, flows with different grain sizes are like cars with engines with different fuel efficiencies. The volume effect is the result of the fact that the deposit accretes backward during its formation on a slope change (either gradual or abrupt). We adopt for the numerical simulations a 3D discrete element modeling which confirms the grain size and flow volume effects shown by the laboratory experiments. This confirmation is obtained without prior fine tuning of the parameter values to get the desired output. The numerical simulations reveal also that the larger the initial compaction of the granular mass before release, the more mobile the flow. This behaviour must be taken into account to prevent misinterpretation of laboratory and field data. Discrete element modeling predicts the correct effects of grain size and flow volume because it takes into consideration particle interactions that are responsible for the energy dissipated by the flows.