EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Modelling grain size segregation in geophysical mass flows: bridging particle-level forces and continuum models

Meng Liu and Lu Jing
Meng Liu and Lu Jing
  • Institute for Ocean Engineering/Water Research Center, Shenzhen International Graduate School, Tsinghua University, Shenzhen, China (

Geophysical mass flows typically consist of a granular solid phase having a broad grain size distribution and an interstitial fluid phase. During the flow, particles of larger sizes tend to segregate in the flow and thereby accumulate in the flow surface and front, resulting in dramatic changes in the flow and deposition characteristics, such as enhanced runout distances and stratified deposit patterns. However, current hydro-mechanical modeling of geophysical mass flows often does not consider grain size segregation and the resulting internal heterogeneity of the flow, which can largely compromise the predictability of existing hydro-mechanical models. A major challenge lies in the multiscale nature of grain segregation and its effects on the flow mobility, which requires detailed characterization of segregation mechanics at both the particle and flow levels. Here, we first review recent advances in a multiscale framework in which the driving and resistive forces of segregation on a single intruder particle or a collection of large particles have been formulated based on discrete element method simulations and theoretical analysis. Then, we discuss how these particle-scale forces can be derived toward a continuum formulation for segregation flux modeling and be connected with the flow dynamics in a two-way coupling manner. These physics-based force formulations reflect the micromechanics of segregation and lead to enhanced predictive modeling of particle size dynamics in the granular flow. Finally, we discuss the potential of extending the proposed framework to consider the effects of interstitial fluids and other mechanisms in upscaled hydro-mechanical modelling for more realistic geophysical mass flows.

How to cite: Liu, M. and Jing, L.: Modelling grain size segregation in geophysical mass flows: bridging particle-level forces and continuum models, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-14147,, 2023.