Laboratory experiments investigating entrainment by debris flows and associated increased mobility

Friday, 19 December 2014
Delaney Kolb1, Laura Maki1 and Kimberly M Hill2, (1)University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, United States, (2)University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, United States
As debris flows course down a steep hillside they entrain bed materials such as loose sediments. The entrainment of materials not only increases the size of the debris flows but the mobility as well. The mechanics underlying the particle entrainment and the associated increased mobility are not well-understood. Existing models for the entrainment process include those that explicitly consider stress ratios, the angle of inclination, and the particle fluxes relative to those achieved under steady conditions. Others include an explicit consideration of the physics of the granular state: the visco-elastic nature of particle flows and, alternatively, the role of macroscopic force chains. Understanding how well these different approaches account for entrainment and deposition rates is important for accurate debris flow modeling, both in terms of the rate of growth and also in terms of the increased mobility associated with the entrainment.

We investigate how total and instantaneous entrainment and deposition vary with macroscopic stresses and particle-scale interactions for different particle sizes and different fluid contents using laboratory experiments in an instrumented experimental laboratory debris flow flume. The flume has separate, independent water supplies for the bed and “supply” (parent debris flow), and the bed is instrumented with pore pressure sensors and a basal stress transducer. We monitor flow velocities, local structure, and instantaneous entrainment and deposition rates using a high speed camera. We have found that systems with a mixture of particle sizes are less erosive and more depositional than systems of one particle size under otherwise the same conditions. For both mixtures and single-sized particle systems, we have observed a relatively linear relationship between total erosion and the slope angle for dry flows. Increasing fluid content typically increases entrainment. Measurements of instantaneous entrainment indicate similar dependencies on particle size and fluid content and further reveal an interdependence between local flow velocities and entrainment rates. We present the details of these results and comment how they may be applied to models for the relationship between mobility and bed entrainment.