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Analysis of debris-flow occurrence in active catchments of the French Alps using monitoring stations

Abstract : Flows – such as debris flows – caused by heavy rainfalls in torrents can mobilise a huge amount of sediments. When they reach the urbanised areas, they may endanger the people’s safety or cause damages. Approaches aimed at mitigating torrential risk widely rely on rainfall intensity-duration thresholds which determine the minimum debris-flow triggering conditions. However, these thresholds suffer from a high variability related not only to inter-site differences but also to the method applied to design them. In addition, they are likely to cause false prediction because the intensity and the duration of the rainfall event are not the only explanatory variables. This PhD research work aim (i) to provide a rigorous methodological framework for designing rainfall threshold in order to limit the variability sources, and (ii) to improve their performances by including both the triggering and the predisposing factors. It is supported by field observations stemming from high-frequency monitoring stations installed since 2011 on two very active debris flow-prone torrents in the French Alps: the Manival and the Réal. First, the images and data gathered between 2011 and 2016 were analysed in order to detect and characterise the sediment laden-flows. To deal with the variety of recorded flows, a phenomenological classification was performed. Second, the minimum intensity-duration threshold for debris-flow triggering was assessed. The threshold sensitivity to the rainfall event definition was estimated. Third, a logistic regression model was used to discriminate the critical rainfall events which do not lead to a debris flow. It makes it possible to select the most relevant explanatory variables. At last, several avenues of work were proposed (i) to move the knowledge of debris-flow initiation conditions from a local to a regional level, with a view to application in a warning system dedicated to hydrometeorological risks, and (ii) to improve the ability to predict, not the debris-flow triggering in the production zone, but the debris-flow propagation up to the area concerned.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 6:14:24 PM
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Coraline Bel. Analysis of debris-flow occurrence in active catchments of the French Alps using monitoring stations. Hydrology. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017GREAU007⟩. ⟨tel-01643950⟩

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