Hydrometeorological threshold conditions for debris flow initiation in Norway
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- NGI articles 
Original versionNatural hazards and earth system sciences 2012, 12(10):3059-3073 10.5194/nhess-12-3059-2012
Debris flows, triggered by extreme precipitation events and rapid snow melt, cause considerable damage to the Norwegian infrastructure every year. To define intensity-duration (ID) thresholds for debris flow initiation critical water supply conditions arising from intensive rainfall or snow melt were assessed on the basis of daily hydro-meteorological information for 502 documented debris flow events. Two threshold types were computed: one based on absolute ID relationships and one using ID relationships normalized by the local precipitation day normal (PDN). For each threshold type, minimum, medium and maximum threshold values were defined by fitting power law curves along the 10th, 50th and 90th percentiles of the data population. Depending on the duration of the event, the absolute threshold intensities needed for debris flow initiation vary between 15 and 107 mm day−1. Since the PDN changes locally, the normalized thresholds show spatial variations. Depending on location, duration and threshold level, the normalized threshold intensities vary between 6 and 250 mm day−1. The thresholds obtained were used for a frequency analysis of over-threshold events giving an estimation of the exceedance probability and thus potential for debris flow events in different parts of Norway. The absolute thresholds are most often exceeded along the west coast, while the normalized thresholds are most frequently exceeded on the west-facing slopes of the Norwegian mountain ranges. The minimum thresholds derived in this study are in the range of other thresholds obtained for regions with a climate comparable to Norway. Statistics reveal that the normalized threshold is more reliable than the absolute threshold as the former shows no spatial clustering of debris flows related to water supply events captured by the threshold.