This paper investigates the relationship of hummock orientation to the flow dynamics of volcanic debris avalanches. There are opposing views on whether hummocks are systematically aligned along debris avalanche paths, or not. To investigate this geomorphologically fundamental question, I investigated hummock orientation for six Japanese debris avalanches of two simple styles: four "freely spreading" debris avalanches, and two "valley-filling" debris avalanches. Quantitative GIS-based data analysis revealed that hummock orientation along the avalanche flow path alternated between dominantly parallel to and dominantly perpendicular to the flow direction. These changes of alignment reflect dynamic changes of the local stress field within the avalanche, alternating between extensional and compressional in response to changes of the slope of the pre-avalanche ground surface. Changes of hummock alignment from perpendicular to parallel indicate that the local stress regime has changed from compressional to extensional. Conversely, changes of hummock alignment from parallel to perpendicular indicate that the local stress regime has changed from extensional to compressional. Thus, this research demonstrated a clear relationship between hummock orientation and dynamic changes of stress regime within avalanches that are related to changes of the slope of the pre-avalanche ground surface.
- Debris avalanche