Methods for the Quantitative Assessment of Channel Processes in Torrents (Steep Streams): 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Methods for the Quantitative Assessment of Channel Processes in Torrents (Steep Streams)

1st Edition

By Dieter Rickenmann

CRC Press

138 pages

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pub: 2016-03-24
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An important part of the risk management of natural hazards in mountain regions concerns the hazard assessment and the planning of protection measures in steep headwater catchments, i.e. torrent control and slope stabilization. Torrent processes in steep channels have their rightful place among the various alpine natural hazards and the corresponding control measures have a long tradition in the European alpine countries. In the planning and execution of such measures, professional experience has been of paramount importance. This experience was based primarily on observations made during and after hazardous events, as well as on regular field visits in the catchments of a steep headwater stream. Quantitative measurements, e.g. of the discharge and of the eroded and deposited solid materials, have been increasingly carried out only in the last decades. This set the basis to develop and improve quantitative methods to predict flow hydraulics, bedload transport and debris flows in torrent catchments.

This publication presents an overview of methods to quantify channel processes in steep catchments. The understanding and the quantitative description of channel processes provides an essential basis for the planning of protection measures.


During the last decades, Dieter Rickenmann has studied the processes of solid transports in torrents and mountain streams. His contribution in terms of knowledge is really consequent [….] In this work, the latest tools for computing hydraulics, bedload transport, wood transport and debris flows are recalled […] and placed in a larger context by considering worldwide literature. This book is really welcome […] as not many books concern themselves with practical application [….] It will undoubtedly be useful for technicians and engineers in charge of torrent work and management.

Dr. Alain Recking, Senior Researcher at IRSTEA, Grenoble, France

This is a precious guide to understanding flow and sediment transport in mountain streams […] The book provides […] an impressive set of quantitative tools, with several examples of application in alpine torrents.

Dr. Frédéric Liebault, Senior Researcher at IRSTEA, Grenoble, France

The entire book expresses concepts and describes methods in a very clear, effective and appropriate form and it provides the reader with all the information needed to independently handle the scientific and technical questions that can arise during their work. It explains the assessment tools of torrent-channel processes, and its content is of the highest quality and completely up-to-date as to the present research position. The book will be of great value to high-level practitioners (hydraulic engineers, geologists, forestry and environmental scientists), researchers and MSc/PhD students.

Prof. Eng. Vincenzo D’Agostino,TESAF Department, Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

1.1 Torrent processes and hazard assessment

1.2 On the contents of the present publication

2 Flow resistance in gravel-bedded streams and torrents

2.1 Logarithmic flow law

2.2 Empirical flow resistance laws (power laws)

2.3 Variable power law

2.4 Partitioning of the flow resistance

3 Fluvial bedload transport

3.1 Characterization of torrents and mountain rivers

3.2 Sedimentological parameters

3.3 Determination of grain size distribution and of characteristic grain sizes

3.4 Bedload transport in steep channels

3.5 Driftwood in torrents and mountain rivers

3.6 Critical channel cross-sections and potential deposition

3.7 Numerical simulation models

4 Debris flows

4.1 Properties of debris flows

4.2 Important elements of the process and hazard assessment

4.3 Occurrence of debris flows

4.4 Empirical approaches to characterize the flow and deposition behavior

4.5 Models for the simulation of debris flows

4.6 Scenarios and deposition in the area of the fan

4.7 Final remarks

5 Magnitude and frequency of torrent events

5.1 Empirical approaches to estimate the magnitude of an event

5.2 Field-based estimate of the event magnitude

5.3 Combined method for estimating the event magnitude

5.4 Flood runoff and debris-flow occurrence

5.5 Frequency of torrent events

5.6 General remarks on the estimate of sediment loads in torrent catchments

6 General remarks on hazard assessment of channel processes in torrents

6.1 Reproducibility of the process analysis and hazard assessment

6.2 Procedure of hazard assessment and important aspects

About the Author

Dieter Rickenmann is a senior research scientist at the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland. He has a degree as Civil Engineer from ETH Zürich in Switzerland and a PhD degree from ETH Zürich. In 2002 he was appointed Professor for Alpine Natural Hazards at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, Austria. Since 2007 he is back at the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, focusing mainly on sediment transport processes and debris flows in steep headwater catchments.

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TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Environmental / Water Supply