Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2019

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 09/04/2021

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Weirich, Frank

First Committee Member

Eichinger, William E

Second Committee Member

Dorale, Jeffrey A

Third Committee Member

Cramer, Bradley D

Fourth Committee Member

Barnhart, William


Debris flows are a known hazard in southern California where growing numbers of people are moving into the urban-wildland interface, threatening lives and property. A common location to see a debris flow head scarp is the upper one-third to one-half of an unburned slope at or near the head of a first-order catchment, particularly in areas of relatively shallow soils overlying bedrock. Unburned, relatively steep slopes with gently rounded shoulders and thin soil over bedrock in southern California were investigated to determine if there is a position on these types of slopes where near-surface water levels and the associated pore pressures are relatively and consistently higher during and after rainfall events than the rest of the slope, resulting in an area of preferential shallow slope failure and debris flow initiation. It was hypothesized that this position, if it exists, would be on the upper one-third to one-half of the slope near a change from a shallower slope to a steeper slope (the slope shoulder). It was further hypothesized that elevated subsurface pore pressures at this location would contribute to it being an area of preferential shallow slope failure. The near-surface water levels at two field sites in southern California were monitored for three field seasons. In the laboratory, a meso-scale simulator was constructed and used to replicate field conditions using an adjustable artificial slope and simulated rainfall. The field research showed that areas of higher water levels can exist on the upper one-third to one-half of hillslopes meeting the designated criteria. The laboratory simulations showed elevated water levels in the same general area as the field data. Laboratory simulations also suggested that this is an area of preferential shallow slope failure. The angle of the slope influenced how long a slope took to fail and how much water was needed to do so, with gentler slopes requiring more time and approximately double the amount of water than steeper slopes.


debris flow initiation, hillslope hydrology, simulator, slope failure


xv, 295 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 286-295).


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Copyright © 2019 Jordan E. Brady

Available for download on Saturday, September 04, 2021

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