Ashlyann Arana Morales
Years participated in RESESS:
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Academic Affiliation: University Of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus
Research Mentors: Rex Baum
Communication Mentor: Amy Steiker
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Ashlyann has had personal experience with hurricanes and earthquakes, which raised her curiosity about their mechanisms and interactions between the lithosphere and atmosphere. For this reason, she completed her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez with a major in Geology and a minor in Meteorology. This summer, Ashlyann worked on a detailed study of landslide and debris-flow source area distribution and characteristics in the northern Colorado Front Range. More specifically, she determined what factors controlled the spatial distribution of landslides during the September 2013 flood.
A detailed study of debris flow source areas in the northern Colorado Front Range
Nearly continuous, heavy rainfall occurred during 9-13 September 2013 causing flooding and widespread landslides and debris flows in the northern Colorado Front Range. Whereas many recent studies have identified erosion as the most common process leading to debris flows in the mountains of Colorado, nearly all of the debris flows mapped in this event began as small, shallow landslides. We mapped the boundaries of 415 September 2013 debris flows in the Eldorado Springs and Boulder 7.5-minute quadrangles using 0.5-m-resolution satellite imagery. We characterized the landslide source areas of six debris flows in the field as part of an effort to identify what factors controlled their locations. Four were on a dip slope in sedimentary rocks in the Pinebrook Hills area, near Boulder, and the other two were in granitic rocks near Gross Reservoir. Although we observed no obvious geomorphic differences between the source areas and surrounding non-landslide areas, we noted several characteristics that the source areas all had in common. Slopes of the source areas ranged from 28° to 35° and most occurred on planar or slightly concave slopes that were vegetated with grass, small shrubs, and sparse trees. The source areas were shallow, irregularly shaped, and elongated downslope: widths ranged from 4 to 9 m, lengths from 6 to 40 m and depths ranged from 0.7 to 1.2 m. Colluvium was the source material for all of the debris flows and bedrock was exposed in the basal surface of all of the source areas. We observed no evidence for concentrated surface runoff upslope from the sources. Local curvature and roughness of bedrock and surface topography, and depth distribution and heterogeneity of the colluvium appear to have controlled the specific locations of these shallow debris-flow source areas. The observed distribution and characteristics of the source areas help guide ongoing efforts to model initiation of the debris flows.