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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 08 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 08 Jul 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Back-calculation of the 2017 Piz Cengalo-Bondo landslide cascade with r.avaflow

Martin Mergili1,2, Michel Jaboyedoff3, José Pullarello3, and Shiva P. Pudasaini4 Martin Mergili et al.
  • 1Institute of Applied Geology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Peter-Jordan-Straße 82, 1190 Vienna, Austria
  • 2Geomorphological Systems and Risk Research, Department of Geography and Regional Research, University of Vienna, Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria
  • 3Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Lausanne, Quartier UNIL-Mouline, Bâtiment Géopolis, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 4Institute of Geosciences and Meteorology, Geophysics Section, University of Bonn, Meckenheimer Allee 176, 53115 10 Bonn, Germany

Abstract. In the morning of 23 August 2017, around 3 million m3 of granitoid rock broke off from the east face of Piz Cengalo, SE Switzerland. The initial rock slide-rock fall entrained 0.6 million m3 of a glacier and continued as a rock(-ice) avalanche, before evolving into a channelized debris flow that reached the village of Bondo at a distance of 6.5 km after a couple of minutes. Subsequent debris flow surges followed in the next hours and days. The event resulted in eight fatalities along its path and severely damaged Bondo. The most likely candidates for the water causing the transformation of the rock avalanche into a long-runout debris flow are the entrained glacier ice and water originating from the debris beneath the rock avalanche. In the present work we try to reconstruct conceptually and numerically the cascade from the initial rock slide-rock fall to the first debris flow surge and thereby consider two scenarios in terms of qualitative conceptual process models: (i) entrainment of most of the glacier ice by the frontal part of the initial rock slide-rock fall and/or injection of water from the basal sediments due to sudden rise in pore pressure, leading to a frontal debris flow, with the rear part largely remaining dry and depositing mid-valley; and (ii) most of the entrained glacier ice remaining beneath/behind the frontal rock avalanche, and developing into an avalanching flow of ice and water, part of which overtops and partially entrains the rock avalanche deposit, resulting in a debris flow. Both scenarios can be numerically reproduced with the two-phase mass flow model implemented with the simulation software r.avaflow, based on plausible assumptions of the model parameters. However, these simulation results do not allow to conclude on which of the two scenarios is the more likely one. Future work will be directed towards the application of a three-phase flow model (rock, ice, fluid) including phase transitions, in order to better represent the melting of glacier ice, and a more appropriate consideration of deposition of debris flow material along the channel.

Martin Mergili et al.
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Martin Mergili et al.
Martin Mergili et al.
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