Surface and subsurface dynamics of a perennial slow-moving landslide from ground, air and space

Xie Hu, Roland Bürgmann, William H. Schulz, Eric Fielding

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Dec 13, 2019
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Received Date: 24th November 19

Landslides modify the natural landscape and cause fatalities and property damage worldwide. Quantifying landslide dynamics is challenging due to the stochastic nature of the environment. With its large area of ~1 km2 and perennial motions at ~10-20 mm/day, the Slumgullion landslide in Colorado, USA represents an ideal natural laboratory to better understand landslide behavior. Here we use hybrid remote sensing data and methods to recover the four-dimensional surface motions during 2011-2018. We resolve a new mobile area of ~0.35 km2 below the crest of the prehistoric landslide. We construct a mechanical framework to quantify the rheology, subsurface channel geometry, mass flow rate, and spatiotemporally dependent pore-water pressure feedback through a joint analysis of displacement and hydrometeorological measurements from ground, air and space. Variations in recharge, mainly from snowmelt, drive multi-annual decelerations and accelerations, during which the head of the landslide is the most responsive. Our study demonstrates the importance of remotely characterizing often inaccessible, dangerous slopes to better understand landslide mechanisms, landscape modification, and other quasi-static mass fluxes in natural and industrial environments, and will ultimately help reduce landslide hazards.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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