Infrasound Array Analysis of Debris Flow Activity and Implication for Early Warning

E. Marchetti*, F. Walter, G. Barfucci, R. Genco, M. Wenner, M. Ripepe, B. McArdell, C. Price

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Debris flows constitute a severe natural hazard and studies are performed to investigate triggering mechanisms and to identify and evaluate early warning systems. We present a seismoacoustic analysis of debris flow activity at Illgraben, Switzerland, with infrasound data collected with a small aperture array. Events are recorded as emergent signals of long duration, with seismic and infrasound amplitudes scaling with the flow discharge. The spectral content is stable and peaking at 8 Hz for the seismic and at 5 Hz for the infrasound that suggests two separate processes of elastic energy radiation, most likely bed-load transport for the seismic and waves at the free surface for the infrasound. Although amplitude and frequency content of the infrasound signal are well within the processing limits, most of the signal is not showing any correlation among the array elements. We suggest that this is a consequence of the contribution of multiple sources of infrasound acting with variable amplitude and phase along the surface of the debris flow. At Illgraben, coherent infrasound is recorded only from fixed sources, corresponding to check dams within the channel. Here infrasound radiation is increased and the dams turn into predominant sources of energy. This allows to unambiguously identify the occurrence of debris flow at Illgraben with the infrasound array, from a remote and safe position and with a timing that is similar to the early warning system based on in-channel sensors. This clearly shows how infrasound arrays could be used as an efficient early warning systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-587
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


FundersFunder number
Open Science Framework repository
Swiss Seismological Service
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen ForschungPP00P2_157551


    • array
    • debris flows
    • infrasound
    • monitoring


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