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Forecasting and seismic detection of debris flows in pro-glacial rivers at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA

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Author(s): Scott R. Beason, Nicholas T. Legg, Taylor R. Kenyon, Robert P. Jost, Paul M. Kennard

Category: PUBLICATION
Document Type: Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation: Mechanics, Monitoring, Modeling, and Assessment: Proceedings, 7th International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazard Mitigation
Publisher: Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists Special Publication 28
Published Year: 2019
Volume:
Number:
Pages: 93 to 102
DOI Identifier:
ISBN Identifier: 978-0-578-51082-8
Keywords: Debris flows outburst floods hazard mitigation and monitoring hazard forecasting Real-time Seismic Amplitude Measurement

Abstract:
The glaciated Mount Rainier volcano in Southwestern Washington State (USA) has a rich history of outburst floods and debris flows that have adversely impacted infrastructure at Mount Rainier National Park in the 20th and 21st century. Retreating glaciers leave behind vast amounts of unconsolidated till that is easily mobilized during high precipitation intensity fall storms and during outburst floods during warm summer months. At least 60 debris flows and outburst floods have been documented between 1926 and 2017 at Mount Rainier. Debris-flow activity has led to the closure of campgrounds and visitor destinations, which has limited visitor access to large swaths of the park. After a relative lull in activity between 2006 and 2014, the historically debris-flow-prone South Tahoma Glacier released two separate sequences of debris flows in 2015, possibly signaling a reawakening in activity. The August 13, 2015 debris flow was especially well documented by park visitors, seismographs and, most interestingly, a soundscape monitor which recorded an anomalous decrease in river noise prior to the arrival of the first debris flow. The seismograph near Tahoma Creek accurately recorded the passage of each debris-flow surge. Using the day of and historic antecedent weather conditions on past debris-flow days, we have developed a debris-flow hazard model to help predict those days with a higher relative hazard for debris-flow activity park-wide based on prevailing and forecasted weather conditions. Debris flows are detected in near-real-time using the USGS Real-time Seismic Amplitude Measurement (RSAM) tool. If an event is detected, we can then provide alerts to employees and visitors working and recreating in the areas downstream to evacuate. Our goal is to accurately forecast the hazard of a debris flow up to seven days ahead of time and then use RSAM to detect debris flows within minutes of their genesis.

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Beason and others (2019) or (Beason et al., 2019)

References Citation:
Beason, S.R., N.T. Legg, T.R. Kenyon, R.P. Jost, and P.M. Kennard, 2019, Forecasting and seismic detection of debris flows in pro-glacial rivers at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA: Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation: Mechanics, Monitoring, Modeling, and Assessment: Proceedings, 7th International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazard Mitigation, Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists Special Publication 28, pp. 93-102.