Journal article

Debris flows in southeast Australia linked to drought, wildfire, and the El Nino-Southern Oscillation

Petter Nyman, Ian D Rutherfurd, Patrick NJ Lane, Gary J Sheridan



Between 2003 and 2013, drought, large wildfires, and record-breaking rainfall contributed to debris flows in southeast Australia that appear to be unprecedented in spatial extent and density in historical records. Here, we used a debris-flow inventory from this period of dry and wet extremes to examine the processes and climatic controls underlying the regionwide debris-flow response. Results reveal shallow landslides and surface runoff as two distinct initiation mechanisms, linked to different geologic settings and contrasting hydroclimatic conditions. Landslide-generated debris flows occurred in sandy soils, independent of past fires, and were tightly controlled by extreme rainfall causing..

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Awarded by Australian Research Council

Funding Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the Australian Research Council (grant LP150100654), Melbourne Water Corporation, and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Insightful and constructive comments from reviewers Grant Meyer, Jeff Coe, and Luke McGuire are greatly appreciated.