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landslides

Slow-moving slides may be triggered by cold temperatures

Landslides aren’t always fast-moving disasters. Slow landslides creep downhill at rates up to a few meters a year, which might not sound dramatic, but slow slides can still damage roads, pipelines and communities. Slow-moving slides are most commonly triggered by increased pore pressure in the soils due to rainfall or snowmelt, but in some places, according to a new study, temperature may also play a role. The new study looking at slow slides in Japan found that cold underground temperatures — independent of increased rainfall — may lubricate slow-moving slides.

27 Dec 2016

A story in the sediment: Emperor Yu's "Great Flood" may have been real

Ancient Chinese texts re-count the story of a great flood on the Yellow River some 4,000 years ago and Emperor Yu’s heroic efforts to dredge and redirect floodwaters, thereby taming the prolonged and catastrophic floodwaters and setting the stage for the agricultural boom that followed. His success is said to have proved a divine mandate for establishing the Xia dynasty, the first in China’s history. But in the absence of geological evidence for such a flood, scholars have long disagreed as to the veracity of the story.

13 Dec 2016

Ancient landslide gave us Zion Canyon

It took about 20 seconds for the Sentinel rock landslide to tumble into Zion Canyon, but those seconds changed the landscape for thousands of years.

 
03 Oct 2016

California drought stops slow-moving landslides

Most people think of landslides as fast-moving events, but many slides creep slowly, advancing over hundreds or thousands of years. In a new study, researchers looking at creeping landslides in California have revealed an unexpected consequence of the state’s ongoing drought: Many of the slides have nearly stopped due to the lack of water in the soil.

27 Sep 2016

Vibrations make large rocky landslides flow like water

There is a rule of thumb in geology for how far a landslide will run out: Most landslides travel roughly twice the vertical fall distance from where they fall off their parent slope. But certain types of dry landslides, called sturzstroms, can travel 20 to 30 times farther, without water or mud to lubricate the flow. Scientists have long hypothesized about exactly how this occurs, and new computer models seem to back up their hypotheses: that vibrations generated by dry rocky landslides can cause the slides to flow like a fluid and spread out across surprisingly large areas.

06 Aug 2016

Dating of landslides around Oso reveals recurring patterns

On March 22, 2014, after a period of heavy rain, a hillside near the town of Oso, Wash., collapsed, sending 7.6 million cubic meters of mud and debris across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, destroying a rural neighborhood and killing 43 people. The slide took Oso residents by surprise, but scientists say the event was not altogether unexpected, as evidence for dozens of past landslides can be found throughout the Stillaguamish River Valley. New research suggests that large slides have occurred in the Oso vicinity even more frequently than previously suspected.

07 Jun 2016

Comment: Assessing the threat from massive rock slope failures in the Norwegian fjordlands

Records dating back to the Vikings describe large rock avalanches into Norwegian fjords that set off lethal displacement waves. Today, increased development and tourism are exacerbating the risk.

21 May 2016

Laser experiments illuminate landslide physics

How does cereal pour from the box? Why do grains of wheat become wedged inside a hopper? What happens to soil when a slope collapses in a landslide? And, more broadly, what do these diverse phenomena have to do with each other?
 
11 Jul 2015

Red Planet Roundup: May 2015

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, five spacecraft in orbit above it, and scientists back here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced almost weekly. Here are a few of the latest updates.

15 May 2015

Down to Earth With: The USGS Landslide Response Team

Over the last year and a half, the Western U.S. has suffered a rash of devastating landslides. The streak began in September 2013, when heavy rains triggered widespread debris flows across the Colorado Front Range. Then came the tragic landslide that buried Oso, Wash., killing 43 people. Two months later, the West Salt Creek slide, a behemoth rock avalanche in western Colorado, killed three people as it barreled down a 5-kilometer-long path.

21 Mar 2015

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