Scott F. Burns

Date of Award

Fall 11-15-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology



Physical Description

1 online resource (xxi, 279 p.) : col. ill., col. maps


Debris avalanches -- Washington (State) -- Mount Saint Helens, Rainstorms -- Washington (State) -- Mount Saint Helens, Landslides -- Washington (State) -- Mount Saint Helens, Slopes (Soil mechanics) -- Washington (State) -- Mount Saint Helens




The heavy precipitation event of November 3-8, 2006 dropped over 60 cm of rain onto the bare southern slopes of Mount St. Helens and generated debris flows in eight of the sixteen drainages outside the 1980 debris avalanche zone. Debris flows occurred on the upper catchments of the Muddy River, Shoestring Glacier, Pine Creek, June Lake, Butte Camp Dome, Blue Lake, Sheep Creek, and South Fork Toutle River. Debris flows were clustered on the west and south-east sides of the mountain. Of the eight debris flows, three were initiated by landslides, while five were initiated by headward or channel erosion. Six debris flows were initiated in deposits mapped as Holocene volcaniclastic deposits, while two were in 1980 pyroclastics on andesite flows. The largest (~975,000 m2) and longest (~8,900 m) debris flow was initiated by landslides in the upper South Fork Toutle River Drainage. The average debris flow initiation zone elevation was 1,750 m, with clusters around 1,700 m and 2,000 m elevation. The lower cluster is associated with basins that host modern or historic glaciers, while the upper is possibly associated with recent pyroclastic deposits. Upper drainages with debris flows averaged 41% slopes steeper than 33 degrees, while those without debris flows averaged 34%. The upper basins with debris flows averaged 6% snow and ice cover, 21% consolidated bedrock, and 74% unconsolidated deposits. Basins without debris flows averaged 3% snow and ice cover, 27% bedrock, and 67% unconsolidated deposits. Drainages with debris flows averaged an 89% loss of glacier area between 1998 and 2009, while those without debris flows lost 68%. Further comparing glacier coverage during that period found that only five of ten glaciers still existed in 2009. On average, the glaciers had reduced in area by 67%, decreased in length by 36%, and retreated by an average of 471 m during that period. Basin attributes were measured or calculated in order to construct a predictive debris flow model based on that of Pirot (2010) using multiple logistic regression. The most significant factors were the percentage of slopes steeper than 33 degrees, unconsolidated deposits in the upper basin, and average annual rainfall. These factors predicted the 2006 debris flows with an accuracy of 94% in a debris flow susceptibility map for Mount St. Helens.

Persistent Identifier