The Gravity Environment of Zhouqu Debris Flow of August 2010 and Its Implication for Future Recurrence
Diandong Ren1*, Lance M. Leslie2, Xinyi Shen3, Yang Hong3*, Qingyun Duan4, Rezaul Mahmood5, Yun Li6, Gang Huang7, Weidong Guo8, Mervyn J. Lynch9
1Department of Imaging and Applied Physics, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia.
2School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA.
3School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Sciences, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA.
4College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.
5Department of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA.
6CSIRO Leeuwin Centre, Floreat, Australia.
7IAP, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
8School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China.
9Australian Sustainable Development Institute, Perth, Australia.
DOI: 10.4236/ijg.2015.64025   PDF   HTML   XML   3,408 Downloads   3,967 Views   Citations


This study investigates the geological background of the August 7-8, 2010 Zhouqu debris flows in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu, and possible future occurrence of such hazards in the peri-Tibetan Plateau (TP) regions. Debris flows are a more predictable type of landslide because of its strong correlation with extreme precipitation. However, two factors affecting the frequency and magnitude of debris flows: very fine scale precipitation and degree of fracture of bedrock, both defy direct observations. Annual mean Net Primary production (NPP) is used as a surrogate for regional precipitation with patchiness filtered out, and gravity satellite measured regional mass changes as an indication of bedrock cracking, through the groundwater as the nexus. The GRACE measurements indicate a region (to the north east of TP) of persistent mass gain (started well before the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake), likely due to increased groundwater percolation. While in the neighboring agricultural region further to the north east, there are signal of decreased fossil water reservoir. The imposed stress fields by large scale increase/decrease groundwater may contribute to future geological instability of this region. Zhouqu locates right on the saddle of the gravity field anomaly. The region surrounding the Bay of Bangle (to the southeast of TP) has a similar situation. To investigate future changes in extreme precipitation, the other key player for debris flows, the “pseudo-climate change” experiments of a weather model forced by climate model provided perturbations on the thermal fields are performed and endangered locations are identified. In the future warmer climate, extreme precipitation will be more severe and debris will be more frequent and severe.

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Ren, D. , Leslie, L. , Shen, X. , Hong, Y. , Duan, Q. , Mahmood, R. , Li, Y. , Huang, G. , Guo, W. and Lynch, M. (2015) The Gravity Environment of Zhouqu Debris Flow of August 2010 and Its Implication for Future Recurrence. International Journal of Geosciences, 6, 317-325. doi: 10.4236/ijg.2015.64025.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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