Granular-fluid avalanches: The role of vertical structure and velocity shear

X. Meng, A.M Taylor-Noonan, Christopher Johnson, W.A. Take, E.T. Bowman, J. M. N. T. Gray

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Field observations of debris flows often show that a deep dry granular front is followed by a progressively thinner and increasingly watery tail. These features have been captured in recent laboratory flume experiments (Taylor-Noonan et al. J. Geophys. Res.: Earth Surface, vol. 127, 2022, e2022JF006622). In these experiments different initial release volumes were used to investigate the dynamics of an undersaturated monodisperse grain-water mixture as it flowed downslope onto a horizontal run-out pad. Corresponding dry granular flows, with the same particle release volumes, were also studied to show the effect of the interstitial fluid. The inclusion of water makes debris flows much more mobile than equivalent volumes of dry grains. In the wet flows, the formation of a dry front is crucially dependent on the heterogeneous vertical structure of the flow and the velocity shear. These effects are included in the depth-averaged theory of Meng et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 943, 2022, A19), which is used in this paper to quantitatively simulate both the wet and dry experimental flows using a high-resolution shock-capturing scheme. The results show that velocity shear causes dry grains (located near the free surface) to migrate forwards to create a dry front. The front is more resistant to motion than the more watery material behind, which reduces the overall computed run-out distance compared to debris-flow models that assume plug flow and develop only small dry snouts. Velocity shear also implies that there is a net transport of water to the back of the flow. This creates a thin oversaturated tail that is unstable to roll waves in agreement with experimental observations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Early online date6 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2024


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