Geophysical Viscoplastic Flows (15frg215)


(University of British Columbia)


The Banff International Research Station will host the "Geophysical Viscoplastic Flows" workshop in Banff from October 25, 2015 to November 1, 2015.

Mud, lava and ice are examples of complex geophysical fluids, in the sense that they have a complex constitution at the microscopic scale that controls their macroscopic material properties and complicates their flow behaviour in comparison to simple viscous fluids like air and water. Under the right physical conditions, all three materials can collapse and flow, creating natural hazards and triggering environmental and economic disasters.

A recent example relevant locally to Banff was the failure of the Mount Polley mine tailings dam. In August 2014, this failure released millions of cubic metres of water and toxic mine waste products in a few hours, prompting the government to declare a local state of emergency and leaving a devastated area in which the long-term environmental impacts remain unclear. Fluid mechanics is key to understanding several aspects of the disaster, ranging from the catastrophic erosional incision of the dam breach at the initiation of the release, to the sediment plume entering Quesnel lake at its terminus. Most relevantly, the outburst likely took the form of a concentrated mud flow over part of its duration. Such flows are similar to dense snow avalanches and other types of landslides and debris flows. Yet, despite their obvious importance, the detailed mathematical modelling of these phenomena remains in its infancy. The aim of this focussed Research Group is to assemble a team to develop the detailed mathematical modelling of environmental hazards like mud flows, outbursts from tailing ponds and granular avalanches.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).