/ News / Stantec releases new landslide runout software to help protect communities and infrastructure from destructive mountain hazards

Stantec releases new landslide runout software to help protect communities and infrastructure from destructive mountain hazards

Parul Dubey on July 6, 2021 - in News, Products, Technology

DebrisFlow Predictor helps landslide professionals predict runout and potential impacts from debris flows and debris avalanches


Global design firm Stantec has developed a new software program that can reasonably predict the path – and potential impacts – of landslides. Designed by Stantec experts, DebrisFlow Predictor, is a cost-effective solution to help the firm’s landslide professionals protect people, the environment, and infrastructure from the threat of debris flows and debris avalanches.

Dr. Richard Guthrie is the lead scientist behind DebrisFlow Predictor. He calls the predictive software a new solution to an old problem.

“Our team designed DebrisFlow Predictor to complement expert judgment,” says Guthrie. “This software predicts a landslide’s path, the depth along the path, and the total area and volume of the debris flow. Better yet, it is efficient to deploy, works with limited data inputs, and can be applied to a very large surface area. To date, there is no other program like DebrisFlow Predictor.”

Formerly known as LABS, DebrisFlow Predictor operates on the principles of sediment balance using cellular automata, a set of cells or agents that act on a grid that evolves over a series of discrete time steps according to a set of rules and the state of neighboring cells. In this manner, relatively simple rules that underlie the program produce complex dynamic behavior. DebrisFlow Predictor estimates the sediment volume along a landslide path by deploying 5-metre-sized agents over a digital elevation model of the same resolution.

“Debris flows are a type of avalanche that are most often triggered by rainstorms and earthquakes,” says Guthrie. “If the ground has been preconditioned for debris flows – such as during the wildfires in the state of California, which removed vegetation and created hydrophobic soils, the danger increases considerably.”

DebrisFlow Predictor will benefit:

  • Communities and municipalities. If you live or work in, or adjacent to, mountainous terrain, DebrisFlow Predictor can help you better understand your hazards and your risk. Using the new technology can help protect vulnerable infrastructure through increased awareness, development of or improvements to your zoning by-laws, and by providing mitigation solutions where the hazard warrants.
  • Linear Infrastructure. Telecommunications, pipelines, roads, fiberoptic. Linear infrastructure frequently crosses debris-flow paths and is threatened by scour (e.g., exposing the pipeline, destroying the road) and deposition (e.g., blocking and closing the road). The Predictor can help identify where this will occur and develop plans to reduce the impact.
  • Mines. Debris flows from waste piles and mountainous terrain can threaten infrastructure and block access to mine facilities. We can help you navigate the hazard.
  • Environmental. Whether due to fires, human activity, or natural causes (e.g. hurricanes and earthquakes), regional debris flow events can have serious impacts on the environment. Stantec’s team uses DebrisFlow Predictor to quantify the actual sediment transfer from slopes to streams or lower positions on the landscape.

To learn more about DebrisFlow Predictor, click here.

About Stantec

Communities are fundamental. Whether around the corner or across the globe, they provide a foundation, a sense of place and of belonging. That’s why at Stantec, we always design with community in mind.

We care about the communities we serve—because they’re our communities too. This allows us to assess what’s needed and connect our expertise, to appreciate nuances and envision what’s never been considered, to bring together diverse perspectives so we can collaborate toward a shared success.

We’re designers, engineers, scientists, and project managers, innovating together at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. Balancing these priorities results in projects that advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.

Stantec trades on the TSX and the NYSE under the symbol STN. Visit us at stantec.com or find us on social media.

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