Basal-topographic control of stationary ponds on a continuously moving landslide

Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
By: , and 



The Slumgullion landslide in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado has been moving for at least the last few hundred years and has multiple ponds on its surface. We have studied eight ponds during 30 trips to the landslide between July 1998 and July 2007. During each trip, we have made observations on the variability in pond locations and water levels, taken ground-based photographs to document pond water with respect to moving landslide material and vegetation, conducted Global Positioning System surveys of the elevations of water levels and mapped pond sediments on the landslide surface. Additionally, we have used stereo aerial photographs taken in October 1939, October 1940 and July 2000 to measure topographic profiles of the eight pond locations, as well as a longitudinal profile along the approximate centerline of the landslide, to examine topographic changes over a 60- to 61-year period of time. Results from field observations, analyses of photographs, mapping and measurements indicate that all pond locations have remained spatially stationary for 60-300 years while landslide material moves through these locations. Water levels during the observation period were sensitive to changes in the local, spring-fed, stream network, and to periodic filling of pond locations by sediment from floods, hyperconcentrated flows, mud flows and debris flows. For pond locations to remain stationary, the locations must mimic depressions along the basal surface of the landslide. The existence of such depressions indicates that the topography of the basal landslide surface is irregular. These results suggest that, for translational landslides that have moved distances larger than the dimensions of the largest basal topographic irregularities (about 200 m at Slumgullion), landslide surface morphology can be used as a guide to the morphology of the basal slip surface. Because basal slip surface morphology can affect landslide stability, kinematic models and stability analyses of translational landslides should attempt to incorporate irregular basal surface topography. Additional implications for moving landslides where basal topography controls surface morphology include the following: dateable sediments or organic material from basal layers of stationary ponds will yield ages that are younger than the date of landslide initiation, and it is probable that other landslide surface features such as faults, streams, springs and sinks are also controlled by basal topography. The longitudinal topographic profile indicated that the upper part of the Slumgullion landslide was depleted at a mean vertical lowering rate of 5.6 cm/yr between 1939 and 2000, while the toe advanced at an average rate of 1.5 m/yr during the same period. Therefore, during this 61-year period, neither the depletion of material at the head of the landslide nor continued growth of the landslide toe has decreased the overall movement rate of the landslide. Continued depletion of the upper part of the landslide, and growth of the toe, should eventually result in stabilization of the landslide. Copyright ?? 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Basal-topographic control of stationary ponds on a continuously moving landslide
Series title Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
DOI 10.1002/esp.1721
Volume 34
Issue 2
Year Published 2009
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
First page 264
Last page 279
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