Articles | Volume 11, issue 11
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 2903–2912, 2011

Special issue: Geo-hydrological risk and town and country planning

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 2903–2912, 2011

Research article 02 Nov 2011

Research article | 02 Nov 2011

Triggering conditions and depositional characteristics of a disastrous debris flow event in Zhouqu city, Gansu Province, northwestern China

C. Tang1, N. Rengers2, Th. W. J. van Asch3, Y. H. Yang1, and G. F. Wang1 C. Tang et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Geo-Hazard Prevention and Geo-Environment Protection, Chengdu University of Technology, Chengdu, China
  • 2Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, Twente University, The Netherlands
  • 3Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Abstract. On 7 August 2010, catastrophic debris flows were triggered by a rainstorm in the catchments of the Sanyanyu and Luojiayu torrents, Zhouqu County, Gansu Province northwestern China. These two debris flows originated shortly after a rainstorm with an intensity of 77.3 mm h−1 and transported a total volume of about 2.2 million m3, which was deposited on an existing debris fan and into a river. This catastrophic event killed 1765 people living on this densely urbanised fan. The poorly sorted sediment contains boulders up to 3–4 m in diameter. In this study, the geomorphological features of both debris flow catchment areas are analyzed based on the interpretation of high-resolution remote sensing imagery combined with field investigation. The characteristics of the triggering rainfall and the initiation of the debris flow occurrence are discussed. Using empirical equations, the peak velocities and discharges of the debris flows were estimated to be around 9.7 m s−1 and 1358 m3 s−1 for the Sanyanyu torrent and 11 m s−1 and 572 m3 s−1 for the Luojiayu torrent. The results of this study contribute to a better understanding of the conditions leading to catastrophic debris flow events.