Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 77 ›› Issue (3): 619-634.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202203009

• Climate Change and Surface Process • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Geomorphic effects of debris flows in high mountain areas of the Parlung Zangbo basin, southeast Tibet under the influence of climate change

YU Guoan1(), LU Jianying1,2, LI Zhiwei3, HOU Weipeng1,2   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. State Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Science, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
  • Received:2021-06-02 Revised:2021-12-30 Online:2022-03-25 Published:2022-05-23
  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China(2018YFC1505201);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971010);The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research(2019QZKK0903)


High altitude or high latitude mountain areas, especially alpine glaciers and rapidly shrinking permafrost regions, provide suitable topography and material source for the development of debris flow. Under the influence of climate change, such as rising temperature and increasing heavy rainfall events, the potential hazard inducing environment of alpine regions is more likely to trigger hazards. As an important natural hazard and mass flow type, debris flow has become an important driving force of geomorphologic evolution in alpine regions. However, few research reported debris flow processes and its geomorphologic effects in alpine regions due to the difficulty of field monitoring and lack of data. We first analyzed the morphologic effects of alpine debris flow based on a case study on the Parlung Zangbo basin (with three typical debris flow prone gullies, i.e., Zhamunong, Guxiang and Tianmo), located in southeast Tibet, where debris flow occurs frequently. Combined with remote sensing image, DEM data, UAV aerial photography, high-accuracy survey of RTK and field recording, the geomorphic development characteristics of debris flow gully (such as erosion-deposition variation and wandering) and its influence on river morphology of main channels were analyzed. The long-term evolution of river valley morphology under the influence of large-scale debris flow events was also discussed. The debris flow processes in alpine regions strongly shaped gully morphology. The upstream gully channel is eroded and expanded strongly, and the erosion-deposition variation of debris flow deposited fan is determined by the scale of debris flow events and flow intensity. Debris flows significantly affect the river morphology of a main channel, which lead to lateral scouring/silting and wandering of the main channel, and affect the planform channel pattern development of upstream of the landslide dam. In the long term, the river valley morphology would evolve into a wide and narrow alternating planform and a stair-case like longitudinal profile.

Key words: debris flow, southeast Tibet, high mountains, geomorphic effect, long-term evolution