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Physical modelling of rainfall- and snowmelt- induced erosion of stony slopes underlain by permafrost

Abstract : Physical modelling experiments have been carried out in a cold room to test at a small scale, the effects of water supply during the thaw of an experimental slope with permafrost. Permafrost was maintained at depth and a thin active layer was frozen and thawed from the surface. Data from the experiments relate to two different situations, firstly with moderate rainfall, and secondly with heavy rainfall during the thaw period. When moderate rainfall is applied during thaw phases, the experimental slope is slightly degraded. At the scale of the experiment, erosion processes involve frost jacking of the coarse blocks, frost creep and gelifluction that induce slow and gradual down slope displacements of the active layer, but also small landslides leading to large but slow mass movements with short displacements. Changes in experimental slope morphology are marked by the initiation of a small-scale drainage network and the development of a little crest line which shows a progressive upslope migration. With such boundary conditions, there is not enough water supply to evacuate downslope the whole of the eroded material and a topographic smoothing is observed. When heavy rainfall is applied during thaw periods, rapid mass wasting (small mudflows and debris flows) become prominent. Slope failures are largely controlled by the water saturation of the active layer and by the occurrence of steeper slopes. At the scale of the experiment, rates of erosion and maximum incision increase by about 100 % leading to significant slope degradation with marked and specific scars comparable to gulllying. These morphological changes are dependant on both the size and the frequency of catastrophic events. These experiments provide detailed data that could improve the knowledge of the physical parameters that control the initiation, at a small-scale, of erosion processes on periglacial slopes with a thin active layer and / or with thin cover of mobilizable slope deposits.
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Contributor : Valérie Casado-Malaizé Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 2:53:22 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - 11:34:04 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-00566938, version 1



E. Védie, J.L. Lagarde, Marianne Font. Physical modelling of rainfall- and snowmelt- induced erosion of stony slopes underlain by permafrost. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 2010, pp.23-33. ⟨hal-00566938⟩



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