Dam-break flows may change into debris flows if certain conditions are satisfied, such as abundant loose material and steep slope. These debris flows are typically characterized by high density and can generate strong impact forces. Due to the complexity of the materials that they are made of, it has always been very challenging to numerically simulate these phenomena and accurately reproduce experimentally debris flows’ processes. Therefore, to fill this gap, the formation-movement processes of debris flows induced by dam-break were simulated numerically, modifying the existing smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) method. By comparing the shape and the velocity of dam break debris flows under different configurations, it was found that when simulating the initiation process, the number of particles in the upstream section is overestimated while the number of particles in the downstream area is underestimated. Furthermore, the formation process of dam-break debris flow was simulated by three models which consider different combinations of the viscous force, the drag force and the virtual mass force. The method taking into account all these three kinds of interface forces produced the most accurate outcome for the numerical simulation of the formation process of dam-break debris flow. Finally, it was found that under different interface force models, the particle velocity distribution did not change significantly. However, the direction of the particle force changed, which is due to the fact that the SPH model considers generalized virtual mass forces, better replicating real case scenarios. The modalities of dam failures have significant impacts on the formation and development of debris flows. Therefore, the results of this study will help authorities to select safe sites for future rehabilitation and relocation projects and can also be used as an important basis for debris flow risk management. Future research will be necessary to understand more complex scenarios to investigate mechanisms of domino dam-failures and their effects on debris flows propagation.
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