Landslides are among the most hazardous of geological processes, causing thousands of casualties and damage on the order of billions of dollars annually. The movement of most landslides occurs along a discrete shear surface, and is triggered by a reduction in the frictional strength of the surface. Infiltration of water into the landslide from rainfall and snowmelt and ground motion from earthquakes are generally implicated in lowering the frictional strength of this surface. However, solid-Earth and ocean tides have recently been shown to trigger shear sliding in other processes, such as earthquakes and glacial motion. Here we use observations and numerical modelling to show that a similar processatmospheric tidescan trigger movement in an ongoing landslide. The Slumgullion landslide, located in the SanJuan Mountains of Colorado, shows daily movement, primarily during diurnal low tides of the atmosphere. According to our model, the tidal changes in air pressure cause air and water in the sediment pores to flow vertically, altering the frictional stress of the shear surface; upward fluid flow during periods of atmospheric low pressure is most conducive to sliding. We suggest that tidally modulated changes in shear strength may also affect the stability of other landslides, and that the rapid pressure variations associated with some fast-moving storm systems could trigger a similar response. ?? 2009 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
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Landslide movement in southwest Colorado triggered by atmospheric tides