Articles | Volume 3, issue 6
31 Dec 2003
31 Dec 2003

Simulating debris flows through a hexagonal cellular automata model: SCIDDICA S3–hex

D. D’Ambrosio, S. Di Gregorio, and G. Iovine

Abstract. Cellular Automata (CA) represent a formal frame for dynamical systems, which evolve on the base of local interactions. Some types of landslide, such as debris flows, match well this requirement. The latest hexagonal release (S3–hex) of the deterministic model SCIDDICA, specifically developed for simulating debris flows, is described. For CA simulation purposes, landslides can be viewed as a dynamical system, subdivided into elementary parts, whose state evolves exclusively as a consequence of local interactions within a spatial and temporal discretum. Space is the world of the CA, here constituted by hexagonal cells. The attributes of each cell ("substates") describe physical characteristics. For computational reasons, the natural phenomenon is "decomposed" into a number of elementary processes, whose proper composition makes up the "transition function" of the CA. By simultaneously applying this function to all the cells, the evolution of the phenomenon can be simulated in terms of modifications of the substates.

SCIDDICA S3–hex exhibits a great flexibility in modelling debris flows. With respect to the previous releases of the model, the mechanism of progressive erosion of the soil cover has been added to the transition function. Considered substates are: altitude; thickness and energy of landslide debris; depth of erodable soil cover; debris outflows. Considered elementary processes are: mobilisation triggering and effect (T1), debris outflows (I1), update of landslide debris thickness and energy (I2), and energy loss (T2). 

Simulations of real debris flows, occurred in Campania (Southern Italy) in May 1998 (Sarno) and December 1999 (San Martino V.C. and Cervinara), have been performed for model calibration purposes; some examples of analysis are briefly described. Possible applications of the method are: risk mapping, also based on a statistical approach; evaluating the effects of mitigation actions (e.g. stream deviations, topographic alterations, channelling, embankments, bridges, etc.) on flow development.