Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
25 Jan 2005
25 Jan 2005

Measurements of debris flow velocity through cross-correlation of instrumentation data

M. Arattano and L. Marchi

Abstract. Detection of debris flow occurrence can be efficiently obtained through different types of sensors. A pair of ultrasonic sensors placed at a known distance from each other along a torrent have been used as a method to obtain mean front velocity of debris-flows, in addition to their use as detectors of debris flow occurrence. Also seismic and acoustic sensors have been employed to measure debris-flow front velocity and discharge in the same manner. In order to obtain velocity measurements, however, these methods require the presence of a well identifiable and defined main front in the debris flow wave. The time lag between the recordings of the front of the wave at two consecutive stations allows an estimation of its mean velocity. When a well-defined front is not present and no recurrent feature can be found along the wave, the measurement of velocity may prove difficult. The cross-correlation technique may help identifying the mean velocity of the flow in such cases. In fact, cross correlation allows to determine the mean time lag elapsed between the recording of two sets of data of the same event at different positions. This technique may be also used to measure velocity using signals coming from different types of sensors, for instance where a ground vibration detector has been placed along a torrent where an ultrasonic sensor was already present or viceversa. An application has been made using field data recorded through seismic and ultrasonic sensors in a small instrumented catchment in the Italian Alps (Moscardo Torrent).