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Forecasting and seismic detection of proglacial debris flows 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

Document Type:
Publisher: Environmental and Engineering Geoscience
Published Year: 2021
Volume: 27
Number: 1
Pages: 57 to 72
DOI Identifier: 10.2113/EEG-D-20-00014
ISBN Identifier:
Keywords: Debris flows glacial outburst floods hazard mitigation and monitoring hazard forecasting real-time seismic amplitude measurement Mount Rainier

The glaciated Mount Rainier volcano in southwestern Washington State (United States) 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 centuries. Retreating glaciers leave behind vast amounts of unconsolidated till that is easily mobilized during high-precipitation-intensity storms in the fall months, and during outburst floods during warm summer months. Over 60 debris flows and outburst floods have been documented between 1926 and 2019 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. This paper documents efforts to characterize and seismically monitor debris flows, map hazards, and develop forecasting approaches for wet and dry weather debris flows. Using the day-of and historic antecedent weather conditions on past debris-flow days, we 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 U.S. Geological Survey Real-time Seismic Amplitude Measurement (RSAM) tool. If an event is detected, we can then provide evacuation alerts to employees and visitors working and recreating in the areas downstream. Our goal is to accurately forecast the debris-flow hazards up to 7 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 (2021) or (Beason et al., 2021)

References Citation:
Beason, S.R., N.T. Legg, T.R. Kenyon, and R.P. Jost, 2021, Forecasting and seismic detection of proglacial debris flows at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA: Environmental and Engineering Geoscience, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 57-72, doi: 10.2113/EEG-D-20-00014.