Numerical Modeling of Debris Flows Induced by Dam-Break Using the Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) Method

Anping Shu, Shu Wang, Matteo Rubinato, Mengyao Wang, Jiping Qin, Fuyang Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2954
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution
(CC BY) license (


  • Dam-break
  • Debris flow
  • Numerical modelling
  • Smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Numerical Modeling of Debris Flows Induced by Dam-Break Using the Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) Method'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this