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Title: Rock avalanches in high mountains
Author: Dunning, Stuart A.
Awarding Body: University of Luton
Current Institution: University of Bedfordshire
Date of Award: 2004
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Rock avalanches are a high magnitude, low frequency catastrophic mass movement involving the failure of over 1 x 106 m3 of mountainside. Rock avalanches are considered a major hazard of the high mountains due to the excessive run-out often associated with them. To date the mechanism that allows for such excessive travel distance is unproven although several dozen possibilities have been proposed. Rock-avalanche deposits exhibit characteristic features such as sharp lateral margins, confinement to local topography, super-elevation on valley sides, intensely fragmented interiors and preserved stratigraphy relative to the source. However, there are few detailed studies of the internal sedimentology of rock-avalanche deposits. Such studies are a vital piece of evidence in the search for the mechanisms of motion as rock avalanches are rarely witnessed. This thesis examines the detailed sedimentology of five rock avalanche deposits of varied lithology and morphology. A novel methodology is developed to sample deposits for their grainsize distributions (GSD). The GSD's prove similar for deposits, with significant variation due to preserved lithological banding in the interior. This finding refutes the commonly held view that rock-avalanche deposits are simply inversely graded. Instead, a facies model is developed of a coarse Carapace facies forming the surface and near surface that overlies a highly fragmented Body facies that is in turn underlain by the Basal facies that is free to interact with the substrate. The sedimentology of the Body facies is considered in fine detail and is shown to be fractal in nature, that is, self-similar at all scales of observation. A predictive sedimentological plot is presented that allows generation of the grain-size distribution and descriptive statistics from a simple estimation of weight percent gravel at a rock avalanche exposure. The morphology of rock-avalanche deposits are examined and a classification presented of 'spread' 'two-phase' and 'stalled'. The hazard and features of each morphology is described in relation to the observed deposits.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: F643 Quaternary studies ; avalanches ; rock avalanches