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Background Information


Questions:

For more information about important terms please consult the glossary.


  • What friction models are used in RAMMS?

RAMMS employs a Voellmy-fluid friction model.  This model divides the frictional resistance into two parts:  a dry-Coulomb type friction (coefficient μ ) that scales with the normal stress and a velocity squared drag (coefficient ξ) .  The frictional resistance S (Pa) is then


 equation_1


where ρ is the flow  density, g gravitational acceleration, φ the slope angle, H the flow height and U the flow velocity. This model has found wide application in the simulation of mass movements, especially snow avalanches.  The Voellmy model has been in use in Switzerland for a long time and a set of calibrated parameters is available.


  • When and why  does the Voellmy model work well?  When should you be careful using the Voellmy model?

Avalanches: 


The Voellmy model ? coupled with the calibrated parameters ? can be used to (1) predict the runout distance and (2) predict the maximum flow velocity of extreme, large snow avalanches.  This is one of the important research results from the Vallee de la Sionne test site.

The Voellmy parameters that we recommend describe the front of a dry-snow avalanche.  Because the front defines the runout distance and maximum velocity the Voellmy model will work.

However, the Voellmy model will not describe the avalanche flow behind the front, at the tail of the avalanche.  Here, measurements show an increase in the friction (a rapid decrease in speed).  This effect causes avalanches to elongate and eventually deposit mass.  Therefore, the Voellmy model will not  predict the deposition behaviour.   The Voellmy model has difficulties to predict the runout of small avalanches, which sometimes begin immediately to deposit or “to starve”.   Of course, small avalanches can be modelled using higher μ and ξ values, but this is a very ad-hoc approach.


Debris flow:

 The "best" constitutive model for debris flows is still a very open question in the scientific community. We recommend using the Voellmy model until a better model is found. Voellmy basically has only two parameters and after some calibration a useful solution can usually be found. With Voellmy one can control the flow velocity (parameter xi) and runout distance (mu).
One reason Voellmy is useful is that it only requires two parameters to calibrate. The turbulent term dominates the frictional behavior when the flow is moving rapidly and the Coulomb term is dominant when the flow is moving slowly, allowing the model to be approximately calibrated to observations of flow velocity and the stopping location of the flow front.


Finding the "right" debris flow model is more difficult than finding the "right" snow avalanche model because debris flows are two component systems (fluid, solid). Much of the behaviour of a debris flow -- including the stopping process -- involves the interaction between the fluid-solid components. Thus, without a two component model, it will be unlikely that we are able to model all aspects of debris flows. The Voellmy model mixes the two components and therefore models the debris flow when the components volumes are constant and well mixed. This assumes, of course, that the relative portions of solid and fluid remain the same, from head to tail of the event. This is hardly true.

  • Why use a hydrograph for debris flow modelling?

There a several good reasons.
Firstly, hazard mitigation experts are often interested in the flow behaviour only near the fan. Calculating the movement of the debris flow in the torrent is a time consuming and often useless task. Therefore using a hydrograph can often cut calculation times dramatically.
Another reason is that it is impossible to describe the initial conditions of debris flows as a "block release". There are cases where block release is a good approximation of reality (e.g. dam breaks), but, in general, it does not accurately reflect the starting conditions of flows from intense precipitation.


  • What numerical solution technique does RAMMS use?

RAMMS uses a second-order, cell-centered, positivity conserving HLLE  finite volume scheme.  The time integration is given by a Runge-Kutta-Heun method.  We are presently working on a parallelized solution.  If you need to know more about this, please contact the developers.


  • How long does it take to perform a simulation?

The time required to simulate an avalanche or a debris flow is a function of the finite volume grid resolution and the size of the calculation domain.  Typically we use 5m resolutions and the simulations require around 10 minutes.  We usually perform the initial simulations at 10 m resolution and therefore we have results in 1 or 2 minutes. When we have a solution that we like we might take a look at the problem at 2m resolution.