High Plains Regional Climate Center


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Ren, D.D., Leslie, L.M., Shen, X.Y., Hong, Y., Duan, Q.Y., Mahmood, R., Li, Y., Huang, G., Guo, W.D. and Lynch, M.J. (2015) The Gravity Environment of Zhouqu Debris Flow of August 2010 and Its Implication for Future Recurrence. International Journal of Geosciences, 6, 317-325. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ijg.2015.64025


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This study investigates the geological background of the August 7-8, 2010 Zhouqu debris flows in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu, and possible future occurrence of such hazards in the peri-Tibetan Plateau (TP) regions. Debris flows are a more predictable type of landslide because of its strong correlation with extreme precipitation. However, two factors affecting the frequency and magnitude of debris flows: very fine scale precipitation and degree of fracture of bedrock, both defy direct observations. Annual mean Net Primary production (NPP) is used as a surrogate for regional precipitation with patchiness filtered out, and gravity satellite measured regional mass changes as an indication of bedrock cracking, through the groundwater as the nexus. The GRACE measurements indicate a region (to the north east of TP) of persistent mass gain (started well before the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake), likely due to increased groundwater percolation. While in the neighboring agricultural region further to the north east, there are signal of decreased fossil water reservoir. The imposed stress fields by large scale increase/decrease groundwater may contribute to future geological instability of this region. Zhouqu locates right on the saddle of the gravity field anomaly. The region surrounding the Bay of Bangle (to the southeast of TP) has a similar situation. To investigate future changes in extreme precipitation, the other key player for debris flows, the “pseudo-climate change” experiments of a weather model forced by climate model provided perturbations on the thermal fields are performed and endangered locations are identified. In the future warmer climate, extreme precipitation will be more severe and debris will be more frequent and severe.