These runaway freight trains made of rock, mud, and water can barrel down mountain channels with little or no warning and take out roads, homes, and anything else in their path.
Denuded, flame-dried soils of recently burned landscapes are especially prone to more runoff and greater danger of these destructive events.
The good news is that as the frequency of fires and subsequent debris flows and flash floods has increased, progress has also been made in figuring out how these sudden events are created and what can be done to safeguard life and property.
Understanding how a burned landscape responds to rainfall after a wildfire is a big step forward.
"There has been a great deal of improvement in our understanding of debris flows, erosion and flash flooding coming-out of burned areas," says Jerry DeGraff, a 36-year veteran of the U.S. Forest Service in California. "This is even more important considering the number of large fires that are occurring and recurring in the U.S. and other parts of the world."
DeGraff is one of the organizers of a session on flash floods and debris flows at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver, Colorado. The session, Geomorphology and Hydrology Impacts from Wildfires: Advances in Our Understanding over the Last 50 Years, features a range of talks covering flash floods and debris flows in a variety of landscapes -- from forests to scrubby chaparral that cover just about every kind of flammable landscape in the Western U.S.
"Structures -- meaning homes and other buildings -- have become a growing concern over the years as more people move into undeveloped areas whether nearer chaparral in Southern California or forests in the Intermountain West,:" says DeGraff. "The talks in the session reflect natural responses to wildfires and runoff that create hazards that may not even occur to the folks moving there."
One of the big science advances has been in the U.S. Geological Survey's debris flow models. These models have helped explain, for instance, where these potentially deadly flows are most likely to happen and how large they might be.
"We've learned that debris flows are likely from burned area for the first two years after a wildfire." says DeGraff. "But the chance of flash floods lasts a little longer." This kind of information helps determine what kinds of treatments might be done to mitigate damage.
"The more we can do to eliminate immediate hazards and longer-term impacts the better it is for emergency responders, residents, and government agencies." DeGraff says. "It's important to understand all the relative aspects: not only for immediate floods but also for the long term. It makes a difference to things like downstream municipal water supplies and road networks."
The session of brief talks makes up only half of the presentations. The talks focused on specific processes and what we have learned, and some also look at ecosystem effects. The other half of the presentations will take place at a poster session, where ongoing research will be presented.
WHEN & WHERE:
Session No. 13
Sunday, 27 October, 8 a.m. to noon
Colorado Convention Center Room 402
T81. Geomorphology and Hydrology Impacts from Wildfires: Advances in Our Understanding over the Last 50 Years
Session No. 51
Sunday, 27 Oct. 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Colorado Convention Center Hall D
T81. Geomorphology and Hydrology Impacts from Wildfires: Advances in Our Understanding over the Last 50 Years (Posters)
Jerry DeGraff, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Kea Giles
Colorado Convention Center, Room 608
The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with more than 25,000 members from academia, government, and industry in more than 100 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA, GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.
Kea Giles | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.geosociety.org
More articles from Earth Sciences:
Upper Rio Grande Impact Assessment Reveals Potential Growing Gap in Water Supply and Demand
12.12.2013 | Bureau of Reclamation
NASA Reveals New Results From Inside the Ozone Hole
12.12.2013 | NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
A unique solar panel design made with a new ceramic material points the way to potentially providing sustainable power cheaper, more efficiently, and requiring less manufacturing time.
It also reaches a four-decade-old goal of discovering a bulk photovoltaic material that can harness energy from visible and infrared light, not just ultraviolet light.
Scaling up this new design from its tablet-size prototype to a full-size solar panel would be a large step toward making solar power affordable compared with ...
Atlantische Flohkrebse pflanzen sich jetzt auch in arktischen Gewässern fort
Biologen des Alfred-Wegener-Institutes, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI), haben zum ersten Mal nachgewiesen, dass sich in den arktischen Gewässern westlich Spitzbergens auch Flohkrebse aus dem wärmeren Atlantik fortpflanzen.
Diese überraschende Entdeckung deute auf einen möglichen Wandel der arktischen Zooplankton-Gemeinschaft hin, berichten die Wissenschaftler und Wissenschaftlerinnen in der Fachzeitschrift Marine Ecology ...
The molecular architecture of three key proteins and their complexes reveals how plants fine-tune their immune response to pathogens
Plants rarely get sick in their natural environment. When the threat of infection arises, a quick decision is made about the necessary countermeasures. The course is set by a protein which forms complexes with its partner proteins for this purpose.
Jane Parker from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding ...
Researchers studying speciation of butterfly orchids on the Azores have been startled to discover that the answer to a long-debated question "Do the islands support one species or two species?" is actually "three species".
Hochstetter's Butterfly-orchid, newly recognized following application of a battery of scientific techniques and reveling in a complex taxonomic history worthy of Sherlock Holmes, is arguably Europe's rarest orchid species. Under threat in its mountain-top retreat, the orchid urgently requires conservation recognition.
A lavishly illustrated publication, titled "Systematic revision of Platanthera in ...
Researchers from Brown University and the University of Hawaii have found some mineralogical surprises in the Moon's largest impact crater.
Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter shows a diverse mineralogy in the subsurface of the giant South Pole Aitken basin.
The differing mineral signatures could be reflective of the minerals dredged up at the time of the giant impact 4 billion years ago, ...
12.12.2013 | Life Sciences
12.12.2013 | Earth Sciences
12.12.2013 | Studies and Analyses
11.12.2013 | Event News
10.12.2013 | Event News
05.12.2013 | Event News