Dynamic simulation of dam-break scenarios for risk analysis and disaster management

Paul W. Cleary, Mahesh Prakash*, Stuart Mead, Xinming Tang, Huibin Wang, Sida Ouyang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


We explore the effect of dam wall collapse scenarios on the extent and speed of inundation resulting from a dam-break by taking advantage of the easy inclusion of dynamic moving objects in the smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) method. Insight into the degree of practical variation in the flood behaviours that can be generated by both the presence of dam wall fragments and the collapse sequence is investigated via a case study using key locations downstream of the Geheyan Dam, Hubei, China. Scenarios considered include ones initiated by seismic fracture, overtopping and foundation failure. The nature of the scenario determines the rate of increase of area of the breach and therefore the discharge flow rate, which in turn strongly influences the extent and timing of inundation for timescales of up to 1 h and distances of up to 10 km from the dam wall. Beyond this, the influence of the specific scenario declines. The presence of the dam wall fragments in the flow strongly influences the pattern of flooding and can protect some locations and lead to increased flooding in others. The flow in all cases has a complex three-dimensional structure, with multiple hydraulic jumps due to variations in the valley floor gradient and width. The SPH method therefore provides the ability to include realistic variations in the dam-break mechanism, thereby leading to more informed risk analysis planning before a dam-break occurs. The methodology for including these SPH flood predictions into a geographical information system (GIS) is also described. One of the collapse scenarios is used to demonstrate the ability of the GIS to then make predictions of expected flood area and the extent of flooding of villages, towns and key infrastructure. The inclusion of SPH into a GIS framework will allow the modelling to be used for disaster management following a dam-break event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-363
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Image and Data Fusion
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • dam collapse
  • disaster management
  • geographical information system
  • risk analysis
  • smoothed particle hydrodynamics


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