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Simulating Postfire Debris Flow Runout Using Morphodynamic Models and Stochastic Surrogates
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  • Elaine T. Spiller,
  • Luke A. McGuire,
  • Palak Patel,
  • Abani Patra,
  • E. Bruce Pitman
Elaine T. Spiller
Marquette University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Luke A. McGuire
The University of Arizona
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Palak Patel
Tufts University
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Abani Patra
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E. Bruce Pitman
University at Buffalo
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Fire affects soil and vegetation, which in turn can promote the initiation and growth of runoff-generated debris flows in steep watersheds. Postfire hazard assessments often focus on identifying the most likely watersheds to produce debris flows, quantifying rainfall intensity-duration thresholds for debris flow initiation, and estimating the volume of potential debris flows. This work seeks to expand on such analyses and forecast downstream debris flow runout and peak flow depth. Here, we report on a high fidelity computational framework that enables debris flow simulation over two watersheds and the downstream alluvial fan, although at significant computational cost. We also develop a Gaussian Process surrogate model, allowing for rapid prediction of simulator outputs for untested scenarios. We utilize this framework to explore model sensitivity to rainfall intensity and sediment availability as well as parameters associated with saturated hydraulic conductivity, hydraulic roughness, grain size, and sediment entrainment. Simulation results are most sensitive to peak rainfall intensity and hydraulic roughness. We further use this approach to examine variations in debris flow inundation patterns at different stages of postfire recovery. Sensitivity analysis indicates that constraints on temporal changes in hydraulic roughness, saturated hydraulic conductivity, and grain size following fire would be particularly beneficial for forecasting debris flow runout throughout the postfire recovery period. The emulator methodology presented here also provides a means to compute the probability of a debris flow inundating a specific downstream region, consequent to a forecast or design rainstorm. This workflow could be employed in scenario-based planning for postfire hazard mitigation.
09 Jan 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
16 Jan 2024Published in ESS Open Archive