SCIENCE CHINA Technological Sciences, Volume 63 , Issue 7 : 1164-1176(2020) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11431-019-1475-y

Breaches of the Baige Barrier Lake: Emergency response and dam breach flood

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  • ReceivedAug 22, 2019
  • AcceptedNov 6, 2019
  • PublishedApr 14, 2020


This paper documents the emergency response to the breaches of the Baige Barrier Lake. The lake was successively formed by landslides that occurred on October 10 and November 3, 2018 at the provincial border between Sichuan and Tibet in China. The barrier lake created by the “10.10” landslide breached on October 12 and triggered a flood with a peak discharge around 10000 m3/s. The residual landslide barrier was enhanced by a second landslide on November 3, resulting in a higher barrier with larger flood potential. An overflow channel was excavated in the crest of the barrier to prompt the breach to be triggered at a lower water level. The second breach happened on November 12 with a measured peak discharge of 31000 m3/s. Nearly 75000 people were evacuated before the two breaches. In order to prevent the downstream dams from possible over-topping, nearly 3.27´108 m3 of the stored volume was released from the Liyuan reservoir 688 km downstream of Baige Barrier Lake. This paper presents the measured hydrographs and the back-analysis results for the “11.03” barrier lake. It is shown that the modern models of dam breach hydraulics can reasonably reproduce the barrier breach hydrographs; however, further studies are needed to define the key parameters which highly influence the calculated results. Knowledge acquired during the emergency response to the case can be shared with experts working on breaches of embankment dams and can be referenced to promote both the theory study and the engineering practice to mitigate the potential risks caused by this type of catastrophic events.

Funded by

the National Key R&D Program of China(Grant,No.,2018YFC1508600)


This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2018YFC1508600).


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  • Figure 1

    (Color online) Locations of the Baige Barrier Lake and nearby towns. The landslides blocked the Jinsha River.

  • Figure 2

    (Color online) Photograph of the landslide that occurred on October 10, 2018 (the “10.10” landslide). Courtesy of Hou Jingming.

  • Figure 3

    (Color online) Photograph of the landslide that occurred on November 3, 2018 (the “11.03” landslide).

  • Figure 4

    (Color online) Regional geological map of the Baige Barrier Lake on the Jinsha River, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. Excerpted from Xu et al. [15].

  • Figure 5

    Schematic geological cross section of the Baige landslide site. China. Excerpted from Xu et al. [15].

  • Figure 6

    (Color online) Locations of hydropower sites and gauging stations on the Jinsha River downstream of the Baige landslides.

  • Figure 7

    (Color online) Cofferdam of the Suwalong Hydro project after dismantling on November 9, 2018 at 14:04. Courtesy of Cheng Yu.

  • Figure 8

    Layout and cross section of the overflow channel excavated on the “11.03” landslide.

  • Figure 9

    (Color online) Photograph of the overflow channel in the “11.03” landslide barrier during excavation. Courtesy of Zhou Zhidong.

  • Figure 10

    (Color online) Illustrations of the “10.10” Lake breach. (a) Photograph of the breach (looking upstream) taken on October 24, 2018; (b) sketch profile of the breach. Courtesy of YU Shu.

  • Figure 11

    (Color online) Photographs of the breaching of the “11.03” Baige Barrier Lake. (a) 11/12/04:45; (b) 11/12/10:50; (c) 11/13/07:50; (d) 11/13/08:00; (e) 11/13/13:45; (f) 11/13/15:40 ; (g) 11/13/18:00; (h) 11/14/08:00.

  • Figure 12

    (Color online) Aerial photographs comparing the channel through the “11.03” slide. (a) Before and (b) after the discharge of the Baige landslide barrier.

  • Figure 13

    (Color online) Photographs of the flood from the “11.03” dam breach site passing the downstream gauging stations along the Jinsha River: (a) Yebatan gauging station; (b) Batang gauging station; (c) Benzilan gauging station; (d) Shigu gauging station; (e) Hutiaoxia gauging station; (f) Liyuan reservoir.

  • Figure 14

    (Color online) Schematic cross sections of the Baige dam on the Jinsha River after discharge.

  • Figure 15

    Instrumented and calculated curves for “11.03” dam post-breach hydrographic parameters vs. time flow discharge.

  • Figure 16

    Simulated and observed hydrographs for the Yebatan, Suwalong, and Liyuan sites after the “11.03” Lake breach.

  • Table 1   Table 1 Main characteristics of the “11.03” Barrier Lake





    Stratification of the natural slope, dip direction/dip angle

    75°/32 °

    Stratification of the bedding planes, dip direction/dip angle


    Height of the failed slope

    800 m

    Elevation of the landslide head scarp

    3670 m

    Elevation of the top of the natural slope

    3718 m

    Landslide barrier

    Volume of the landslide

    3.7×106 m3

    Elevations of crest/toe, measured at the highest crest surface of the left deposit

    3004/2897 m

    Elevations of crest/toe, measured at the lowest crest surface of the right deposit

    2989/2934 m

    Length along the river valley (bottom of the deposit)

    1400 m

    Length across the river valley

    600 m

    Ratio of length over thickness near the left abutment


    Covered area

    80×104 m2

    Barrier Lake

    Potential maximum water level without intervention works

    2967 m

    Potential storage

    7.9×108 m3

    Elevation of the original river bed

    2861 m

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