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Sensors 2008, 8(4), 2436-2452;

Systems and Sensors for Debris-flow Monitoring and Warning

CNR-IRPI, Strada delle Cacce,73, 10135 Torino, Italy
CNR-IRPI, Corso Stati Uniti, 4, 35127 Padova, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 18 December 2007 / Accepted: 2 April 2008 / Published: 4 April 2008
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sensors for Disaster and Emergency Management Decision Making)
Full-Text   |   PDF [757 KB, uploaded 21 June 2014]


Debris flows are a type of mass movement that occurs in mountain torrents. They consist of a high concentration of solid material in water that flows as a wave with a steep front. Debris flows can be considered a phenomenon intermediate between landslides and water floods. They are amongst the most hazardous natural processes in mountainous regions and may occur under different climatic conditions. Their destructiveness is due to different factors: their capability of transporting and depositing huge amounts of solid materials, which may also reach large sizes (boulders of several cubic meters are commonly transported by debris flows), their steep fronts, which may reach several meters of height and also their high velocities. The implementation of both structural and nonstructural control measures is often required when debris flows endanger routes, urban areas and other infrastructures. Sensor networks for debris-flow monitoring and warning play an important role amongst non-structural measures intended to reduce debris-flow risk. In particular, debris flow warning systems can be subdivided into two main classes: advance warning and event warning systems. These two classes employ different types of sensors. Advance warning systems are based on monitoring causative hydrometeorological processes (typically rainfall) and aim to issue a warning before a possible debris flow is triggered. Event warning systems are based on detecting debris flows when these processes are in progress. They have a much smaller lead time than advance warning ones but are also less prone to false alarms. Advance warning for debris flows employs sensors and techniques typical of meteorology and hydrology, including measuring rainfall by means of rain gauges and weather radar and monitoring water discharge in headwater streams. Event warning systems use different types of sensors, encompassing ultrasonic or radar gauges, ground vibration sensors, videocameras, avalanche pendulums, photocells, trip wires etc. Event warning systems for debris flows have a strong linkage with debris-flow monitoring that is carried out for research purposes: the same sensors are often used for both monitoring and warning, although warning systems have higher requirements of robustness than monitoring systems. The paper presents a description of the sensors employed for debris-flow monitoring and event warning systems, with attention given to advantages and drawbacks of different types of sensors. View Full-Text
Keywords: Debris flow; monitoring; alarm system; sensors; warning Debris flow; monitoring; alarm system; sensors; warning
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Arattano, M.; Marchi, L. Systems and Sensors for Debris-flow Monitoring and Warning. Sensors 2008, 8, 2436-2452.

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