geomorphology lab

answer questions based on videos and articles provided *you will use Google Earth

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Mass-Wasting Lab Exercise
GEOS541 Spring 2018
Part I. Watch the video titled: “The Rissa Landslide, Quick Clay in Norway” and answer the questions listed
below. You can find the video on D2L in the Lab module and Landslide sub module.
1. What was the specific type of landslide that occurred here?
2. Describe how the landslide occurred. What triggered the landslide? Was it just one event? More than
one event? What was unusual about this event?
3. What made this area particularly susceptible to this type of landslide?
4. What is a non-Newtonian fluid and how does that term relate to the quick clay found in Rissa?
5. Was the landslide the only disaster event that occurred? What other disastrous event occurred in
association with the slide?
6. Describe the methods used in order to assess the safety of the area after the slide. What types of data
were collected? What type of tests were conducted?
7. What were the results of the tests and what did the geotechnical engineers decided needed to be done in
order to stabilize the area?
8. What was one of the major scientific outcomes from this event that will benefit other communities that
could be impacted by quick clay slides?
Part II. Objectives:
Following completion of this lab you are expected to be able to:
1. Identify and describe landslides
2. Recognize indicators of slope instability
3. Construct profiles and calculate slope angle in Excel
4. Evaluate human influence on slopes
5. Understand regional variations in slope stability related to geology, climate and relief.
Read the following webpages and documents illustrating landslide occurrence and susceptibility in the
continental U.S.:
1. Landslide Overview Map of the Conterminous United States USGS Open-File Report 97-289 (Compare this
map with Google Maps Terrain. Do you see any correlation?)
2. Southern California Landslides – An overview USGS Fact Sheet 2005-3107
3. Landslide Types and Hazards USGS Fact Sheet 2004-3072
a. List several specific locations that have a high susceptibility to landsliding.
b. Which 3 environmental factors appear to be most important in generating landsliding? Briefly
explain your choices.
For the next section you will use Google Earth and the Figures and cross sections in your handout to answer
the following questions.
Figure 2: Debris slide at Madison
Canyon, Montana (US Geological
Madison Canyon, Montana (Figure 2)
Before doing the Google Earth portion of this section, visit the following website
( to learn about the event and
answer the question below:
a) Summarize the events that took place here in the Madison River Canyon on August 17, 1959.
Using Google Earth, navigate to Earthquake Lake, MT.
The program will take you to a narrow, mountain lake, and you will want to zoom in on the lake’s downstream
end. A landslide dammed the Madison River, creating a lake 6 miles long and 200 feet deep (Judson et al.,
2000). You can check out some quick information about this event by clicking on the orange and purple
information dots located in the deposit at the lake’s downstream end (make sure you have the Gallery layer
checked in Google Earth). With the Terrane option selected zoom in on the deposits, tilt for a partial side-view,
and rotate to view the slope on the southern side of the valley. This was the source region for the landslide, and
the scarp is still clearly visible. Note: when measuring distances the terrane option should be off.
Figure 3: Topographic Map of the Madison Canyon Slide (From Judson et al., 2000)
a) Put arrows on the topographic map (Figure 3 above) that indicate the direction of the slide.
Figure 4 is a cross section showing the geology and pre-slide topography in the Madison Canyon area.
The cross section is indicated on the topographic map by line A-B.
b) Using the elevation values associated with the post-slide topography shown on the topographic map of
Madison Canyon (Figure 3), plot the post-slide topography on the given cross section below (Figure 4: Yaxis = elevation, X-axis = distance). Use a ruler and the given scale to estimate the distances between
contour lines.
On your cross section: label the area of accumulation (toe of the slide) and the slide slope.
c) From the cross section, what is the greatest thickness of landslide debris removed from the mountainside
south of the Madison River?
d) From the cross section, what is the greatest thickness of landslide debris accumulated on the north side of the
Madison River?
e) Read landslide types and processes (USGS) and classify the slide. Describe the factors that contributed to
this slide.
f) Explain how the stability of the slope has changed in response to the slide.
g) What processes observable may promote reactivation of slope movement?
Figure 4: Cross section showing pre-slide topography of Madison Canyon (Judson et al., 2000).
Point Fermin, California (Figure 5)
Beginning January 1929, a half-mile long slide, began sliding slowly seaward down the inclined bedding on top
of a slippery clay layer. Movement was apparently triggered by excess water from yard irrigation seeping down
through layers of weak clay, which expanded and lost strength. Movement continued until June 1930. No one
was killed by this slow movement, but homes sitting atop the high sea cliffs were twisted out of shape and had
to be removed (Abbott 2004). Using Google Earth, navigate to this area to help you visualize the slide.
Examine figure 5, an oblique air photo of the slide feature on the coast at Point Fermin:
a) Based on information from the USGS landslides types and processes document, do you think the Point
Fermin slide is a: slump, earthflow, debris slide, or rockfall?
b) Draw lines on the figure to characterize the top of the main scarp and two of the minor scarps.
c) Estimate the maximum vertical displacement in feet along the main scarp. Note the elevation in feet marked
at the top of the cliff. Explain how you made this estimation.
d) Does the slump appear to be stable in the long run? Would you recommend people build above/adjacent to
this slope? Why or why not?
Figure 5: Oblique air-photo of a rotational slide along the coast at Point Fermin, Palos Verdes
Peninsula, California (from Judson et al., 2000).
Go to La Conchita, California. This is an upscale community with an upslope problem. On March 1995
600,000 tons of debris slide down and buried nine homes. In 2005 portions of the 1995 slide remobilized
destroying 13 houses, damaging 23 other, and killing 10 people. Like much of coastal California the region is
underlain by uplifted Miocene sediments. Slope instability is worsened by earthquake activity, wildfires, and
California’s monsoonal climate, to name a few.
a) View the 2005 failure on YouTube. How would you classify this landslide?
b) Examine the area (you may want to use the historical imagery). Do you see any evidence for older slides
in the area? Describe as many features as you can find that indicate previous landslide activity.
c. Calculate the slopes in the area. How do they compare with the angle of repose for unconsolidated
sediment (~35 degrees)? What would you advise people who are living at the base of these slopes to do
and why?
Go to: “Lanzhou, China”. This is the famous Loess Plateau region of China, where thick loess (silt) deposits
from the glaciation of the Himalayas have been deeply dissected to form narrow canyons.
a. Carefully study the slopes. What evidence indicates that these slopes are composed of unstable and
erodable sediment and not bedrock?
How have many of the slopes been modified by human activity? Why?
Examine hazardous landslides in New England.
a. Landslides are rare along the Massachusetts coast and yet are quite common along the coastal bluffs of
Maine. After reading Coastal Landslide Hazards and a General Introduction to the Presumpscot
Formation formulate a hypotheses explaining why these differences exist.
b. Revisit Landslide Overview Map of the Conterminous United States. What area of New England is most
prone to landslides. Propose an explanation.
Related Readings
Jibson, Rangall, W., 2005, Landslide Hazards at La Conchita, California; U.S.G.S. Open-File Report 2005-1076
Judson et al., 2000, Problem Solving in Geology 2) Abbott, 2000, Natural Disasters.
Witkind, I.J., and Stickney, M.C., 1987, The Hebgen Lake earthquake area, Montana and Wyoming: in Beus,
S.S., ed., Centennial Field Guide Volume 2: Rocky Mountain Section of the Geological Society of
America, p. 89-94.

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