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Seismo-acoustic analysis of debris-flow events at Illgraben (Switzerland): relating signal features to flow measurements and infrasonic source mechanisms
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  • Giacomo Belli,
  • Fabian Walter,
  • Brian W McArdell,
  • Duccio Gheri,
  • Emanuele Marchetti
Giacomo Belli
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Firenze

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Fabian Walter
Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL)
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Brian W McArdell
Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape
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Duccio Gheri
University of Florence
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Emanuele Marchetti
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Firenze
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We present a seismo-acoustic analysis of the debris-flow activity between 2017 and 2019 at the Illgraben catchment (Switzerland). To understand fluid dynamic processes involved in the seismo-acoustic energy generation by debris-flows, seismic and acoustic amplitudes (maximum root mean square amplitude, RMSA) and peak frequencies are compared with flow measurements (front velocity, maximum flow depth and density). Front velocity, maximum depth, peak discharge and peak mass flux show a positive correlation with both infrasonic and seismic maximum RMSA, suggesting that seismo-acoustic radiation is controlled by these flow parameters. Comparison between seismo-acoustic peak frequencies and flow parameters reveal that, unlike seismic signals, characterized by a constant peak frequency regardless of the magnitude of the flow, infrasound peak frequency decreases with increasing flow velocity, depth and discharge. Based on all collected evidence, we suggest that infrasound signals of debris-flows are generated by flow waves and water splashes that develop at the free-surface of the flow, whose dimension scales with flow magnitude. According to fluid dynamics, such surface oscillations are mostly generated wherever the flow encounters significant channel irregularities, such as topographic steps and planform steep bends, that therefore likely constitute preferential sources of infrasound. As for seismic waves, results are consistent with previous theoretical models and field observations, which attribute debris-flow seismicity to solid particle collisions, friction and fluid dynamic structures. Finally, the observed positive correlations between seismo-acoustic signal features and flow parameters highlight the potential to use infrasound and seismic measurements for debris-flow monitoring and risk management.