Mechanistic insights from emergent landslides in physical experiments

Olivia P. Beaulieu, Libby D. Witte, Andrew D. Wickert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Landslides pose a major natural hazard, and heterogeneous conditions and limited data availability in the field make it difficult to connect mapped landslide inventories to the underlying mass-failure mechanics. To test and build predictive links between landslide observations and mechanics, we monitored 67.89 h of physical experiments in which an incising and laterally migrating river generated landslides by undercutting banks of moist sand. Using overhead photos (every 20 s) and 1-mm-resolution laser topographic scans (every 15-30 min), we quantified the area, width, length, depth, volume, and time of every visible landslide, as well as the scarp angles for those within 3 min prior to a topographic scan. Both the landslide area-frequency distribution and area-volume relationship are consistent with those from field data. Cohesive strength controlled the peak in landslide area-frequency distribution. These results provide experimental support for inverting landslide inventories to recover the mechanical properties of hillslopes, which can then be used to improve hazard predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-396
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 16 2020

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