Impacts of september 21, 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake on the characteristics of gully-type debris flows in central Taiwan

Chia Nan Liu, Hsiao Fung Huang, Jia Jyun Dong

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34 Scopus citations


Debris flows are more frequent in central Taiwan, because of its mountainous geography. For example, many debris flows were induced by Typhoon Herb in 1996. The Chi-Chi earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3, which took place in 1999 in central Taiwan, induced many landslides in this region. Some landslides turned into debris flows when Typhoon Toraji struck Taiwan in 2001. This study investigates the characteristics of the gullies where debris flows have occurred for a comparison. Aerial photos of these regions dated in 1997 (before the earthquake) and 2001 (after the earthquake) are used to identify the occurrence of gully-type debris flows. A Geographic Information System (GIS) is applied to acquire hydrological and geomorphic characteristics: stream gradient, stream length, catchment gradient, catchment area, form factor, and geology unit of these gullies. These characteristics in different study regions are presented in a statistical approach. The study of how strong ground motion affects the debris flows occurrence is conducted. The characteristics of the debris flow gullies triggered by typhoons before and after the Chi-Chi earthquake are quantitatively compared. The analysis results show that a significant transformation in the characteristics was induced by the Chi-Chi earthquake. In general, the transformation points out a lower hydrological and geomorphic threshold to trigger debris flows after the Chi-Chi earthquake. The susceptibility of rock units to strong ground motion is also examined. The analysis of debris flow density and accumulated rainfall in regions of different ground motion also reveal that the rainfall threshold decreases after the Chi-Chi earthquake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-368
Number of pages20
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • Characteristic
  • Debris flow
  • Earthquake
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • Rainfall


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