Articles | Volume 15, issue 4
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 735–746, 2015
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 735–746, 2015

Research article 07 Apr 2015

Research article | 07 Apr 2015

A comparative assessment of two different debris flow propagation approaches – blind simulations on a real debris flow event

L. M. Stancanelli and E. Foti L. M. Stancanelli and E. Foti
  • University of Catania, Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Via Santa Sofia 64, 95123, Catania, Italy

Abstract. A detailed comparison between the performances of two different approaches to debris flow modelling was carried out. In particular, the results of a mono-phase Bingham model (FLO-2D) and that of a two-phase model (TRENT-2D) obtained from a blind test were compared. As a benchmark test the catastrophic event of 1 October 2009 which struck Sicily causing several fatalities and damage was chosen. The predicted temporal evolution of several parameters of the debris flow (such as flow depth and propagation velocity) was analysed in order to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of the two models in reproducing the global dynamics of the event. An analysis between the models' results with survey data have been carried out, not only for the determination of statistical indicators of prediction accuracy, but also for the application of the Receiver Operator Characteristic (ROC) approach. Provided that the proper rheological parameters and boundary conditions are assigned, both models seem capable of reproducing the inundation areas in a reasonably accurate way. However, the main differences in the application rely on the choice of such rheological parameters. Indeed, within the more user-friendly FLO-2D model the tuning of the parameters must be done empirically, with no evidence of the physics of the phenomena. On the other hand, for the TRENT-2D the parameters are physically based and can be estimated from the properties of the solid material, thus reproducing more reliable results. A second important difference between the two models is that in the first method the debris flow is treated as a homogeneous flow, in which the total mass is kept constant from its initiation in the upper part of the basin to the deposition in a debris fan. In contrast, the second approach is suited to reproduce the erosion and deposition processes and the displaced mass can be directly related to the rainfall event. Application of both models in a highly urbanized area reveals the limitation of numerical simulation which is inadequate in describing some disturbances of the flows that occurred during the alluvial event (e.g. the cars, the volume of debris within buildings etc.) which have a crucial influence on the evaluation of the maximum and final flow depths.

Short summary
The performances of a mono-phase model and of a two-phase model have been evaluated carrying out a blind test. As a benchmark test the event that struck Sicily (2009) was chosen. Prediction accuracies have been evaluated determining statistical indicators and applying the ROC approach. For the simulated event the two-phase model is more accurate than the mono-phase one, though both models show limits when applied in a highly urbanized area, where some constrains cannot be properly reproduced.
Final-revised paper