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Durham University

Department of Geography

Flume Modelling of Channelised Debris Flows (MSc or PhD)

Supervised by Professor Jeff Warburton

Keywords: Debris Flow, Curved Channels, Experiments, Rheology.

Debris flows are common in mountain environments and cause major losses of infrastructure and hundreds of human fatalities annually. The aim of this project is to obtain well-constrained information on the three-dimensional morphodynamics of debris flows through the use of a unique debris flow flume facility (see figure). The project will test fundamental questions about how debris flows behave and will examine how debris flows move through curved channels. For example: (1) the validity of the forced vortex equation for estimating flow velocity from super-elevation in channel bends can be quantitatively assessed and; (2) levee deposition in curved channels can be simulated on over bank slopes.

Durham University Debris flow flume. The flume is configured with a rigid channel insert and a single bend of geometry Rc = 0.7m, bend angle θ = 40°. (Inset A) The channel slope is 15°. (Inset B) Experimental debris flow lobe.

There are several important advantages of conducting controlled experiments at reduced scale, including:

  1. The ability to manipulate reach-scale slope and vary it by degree
  2. The option to change channel configuration and model complex channel morphologies
  3. The capacity to model overbank deposition and sediment deposits / forms (levees)
  4. The facility for including erodible beds in the model
  5. The ease with which sediment volumes can be managed and rheological mixes varied
  6. The ability to replicate and repeat experiments

The bespoke debris flow modelling facility consists of an 8m long flume of variable slope. Slope may be varied between 10 to 50°. The flume channel is housed in a box-frame which is 1m wide. This provides strength but also allows for a versatile modular channel configuration for both rigid, roughened channels erodible channel with deformable bed and banks. The overall dimensions of the channel can be varied in order to quantatively assess scaling issues associated with downscaling of debris flows to the experimental scale.

For further information please email:

To apply for this project please visit the How to Apply page for further information.