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Predicting Debris Yield From Burned Watersheds: Comparison of Statistical and Artificial Neural Network Models

Pak, Jang Hyuk, Kou, Zhiqing, Kwon, Hyuk Jae, Lee, Jiin-Jen
Journal of the American Water Resources Association 2009 v.45 no.1 pp. 210-223
prediction, neural networks, statistical models, watersheds, hydrologic models, prescribed burning, yields, regression analysis, sediment yield, California
Alluvial fans in southern California are continuously being developed for residential, industrial, commercial, and agricultural purposes. Development and alteration of alluvial fans often require consideration of mud and debris flows from burned mountain watersheds. Accurate prediction of sediment (hyper-concentrated sediment or debris) yield is essential for the design, operation, and maintenance of debris basins to safeguard properly the general population. This paper presents results based on a statistical model and Artificial Neural Network (ANN) models. The models predict sediment yield caused by storms following wildfire events in burned mountainous watersheds. Both sediment yield prediction models have been developed for use in relatively small watersheds (50-800 ha) in the greater Los Angeles area. The statistical model was developed using multiple regression analysis on sediment yield data collected from 1938 to 1983. Following the multiple regression analysis, a method for multi-sequence sediment yield prediction under burned watershed conditions was developed. The statistical model was then calibrated based on 17 years of sediment yield, fire, and precipitation data collected between 1984 and 2000. The present study also evaluated ANN models created to predict the sediment yields. The training of the ANN models utilized single storm event data generated for the 17-year period between 1984 and 2000 as the training input data. Training patterns and neural network architectures were varied to further study the ANN performance. Results from these models were compared with the available field data obtained from several debris basins within Los Angeles County. Both predictive models were then applied for hind-casting the sediment prediction of several post 2000 events. Both the statistical and ANN models yield remarkably consistent results when compared with the measured field data. The results show that these models are very useful tools for predicting sediment yield sequences. The results can be used for scheduling cleanout operation of debris basins. It can be of great help in the planning of emergency response for burned areas to minimize the damage to properties and lives.