Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Landslides triggered by human activity on the rise

23.08.2018

More than 50,000 people were killed by landslides around the world between 2004 and 2016, according to a new study by researchers at UK’s Sheffield University. The team, who compiled data on over 4800 fatal landslides during the 13-year period, also revealed for the first time that landslides resulting from human activity have increased over time. The research is published today in the European Geosciences Union journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences.

The team found that over 700 fatal landslides that occurred between 2004 and 2016 had a human fingerprint. Construction works, legal and illegal mining, as well as the unregulated cutting of hills (carving out land on a slope) caused most of the human-induced landslides.


Photograph panorama looking over the devastation of the Kedarnath landslide, June 2013, Uttarakhand state, India.

Credit: Vaibhav Kaul, University of Sheffield


Number of non-seismically triggered fatal landslides by country (2004 to 2016)

Credit: Froude & Petley, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 2018

“We were aware that humans are placing increasing pressure on their local environment, but it was surprising to find clear trends within the database that fatal landslides triggered by construction, illegal hillcutting and illegal mining were increasing globally during the period of 2004 and 2016,” says Melanie Froude, a postdoctoral researcher at Sheffield’s Department of Geography and lead author of the study.

While the trend is global, Asia is the most affected continent: “All countries in the top 10 for fatal landslide triggered by human activity are located in Asia,” says Froude. The number 1 country is India, which accounts for 20% of these events. It is also the country where human-triggered fatal landslides are increasing at the highest rate, followed by Pakistan, Myanmar and the Philippines.

Dave Petley, a professor and Vice-President for Research and Innovation at the University of Sheffield, started collecting data on fatal landslides after realising that many databases on natural disasters were “significantly underestimating the extent of landslide impact.” While earthquakes and storms are deadlier, landslides do cause a significant number of fatalities.

The researchers identified a total of 4800 fatal landslides, excluding those triggered by earthquakes, that occurred around the world between 2004 and 2016 and caused a total of about 56,000 deaths. The most tragic event identified by the researchers was the Kedarnath landslide in June 2013 in India, which resulted in over 5000 deaths. It was due to extreme weather conditions that caused flash floods and massive mudflows, which affected thousands of religious pilgrims trapped in a mountain area.

Since 2004, Petley has painstakingly collected data on fatal landslides from online English-language media reports. To confirm the news were accurate, Petley – and more recently Froude, who reviewed all landslide accounts – checked each report whenever possible against government and aid agency articles, academic studies or through personal communication. Details about the landslides, such as location, impacts or cause, were added to their Global Fatal Landslide Database.

“Collecting these reports and organising them into a database shows us where landslides are frequently harming people, what causes these landslides and whether there are patterns in fatal landslide occurrence over time. The database provides us with an overview of the impact of landslides on society,” explains Petley.

Aside from Asia, where 75% of landslides in the database occurred, the areas most affected are in Central and South America, the Caribbean islands, and East Africa. In Europe, the Alps are the region with more fatal landslides.

In support of past studies, the researchers also found that 79% of landslides in their database were triggered by rainfall. Most events happen during the northern hemisphere summer, when cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons are more frequent and the monsoon season brings heavy rains to parts of Asia.

The Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences study highlights that fatal landslides are more common in settlements, along roads, and at sites rich in precious resources. They occur more frequently in poor countries and affect poor people disproportionately, the researchers say.

In the Himalayan mountain region, especially in Nepal and India, many of the fatal landslides triggered by construction occurred on road construction sites in rural areas, while in China many happened in urban building sites.

“The prevalence of landslides in these settings suggests that regulations to protect workers and the public are insufficient or are not being sufficiently enforced. In the case of roads, maintaining safety during construction is difficult when it is economically unviable to completely shut roads because alternative routes involve substantial 100 mile + detours”, says Froude.

Landslides triggered by hillcutting are mostly a problem in rural areas, where many people illegally collect material from hillslopes to build their houses. “We found several incidences of children being caught-up in slides triggered as they collected coloured clay from hillslopes, for decoration of houses during religious festivals in Nepal. Educating communities who undertake this practise on how to do it safely, will save lives,” Froude says.

“With appropriate regulation to guide engineering design, education and enforcement of regulation by specialist inspectors, landslides triggered by construction, mining and hillcutting are entirely preventable,” Froude emphasises. “The study highlights that we need to refocus our efforts globally on preventable slope accidents,” concludes Petley.


Please mention the name of the publication (Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences) if reporting on this story and, if reporting online, include a link to the paper (https://www.nat-hazards-earth-syst-sci.net/18/2161/2018) or to the journal website (https://www.natural-hazards-and-earth-system-sciences.net).

MORE INFORMATION

This research is presented in the paper ‘Global fatal landslide occurrence 2004 to 2016’ to appear in the EGU open access journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences on 23 August 2018.

The scientific article is available online, free of charge, from the publication date onwards, at https://www.nat-hazards-earth-syst-sci.net/18/2161/2018/ (this URL will redirect to the final, peer-reviewed paper after it is published). A pre-print version of the final paper is available for download via www.egu.eu/news/424/landslides-triggered-by-human-activity-on-the-rise/ while the embargo lasts.

The data are available to view at ESRI ArcGIS online at https://shefuni.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=98462998953c4f1f....

Citation: Froude, M. J. and Petley, D. N.: Global fatal landslide occurrence 2004 to 2016, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 2161, https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-18-2161-2018, 2018.

The study was conducted by Melanie Froude and David Petley (Department of Geography, University of Sheffield).

The European Geosciences Union (EGU) is Europe’s premier geosciences union, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the Earth, planetary, and space sciences for the benefit of humanity, worldwide. It is a non-profit interdisciplinary learned association of scientists founded in 2002 with headquarters in Munich, Germany. The EGU publishes a number of diverse scientific journals, which use an innovative open access format, and organises a number of topical meetings, and education and outreach activities. Its annual General Assembly is the largest and most prominent European geosciences event, attracting over 14,000 scientists from all over the world. The meeting’s sessions cover a wide range of topics, including volcanology, planetary exploration, the Earth’s internal structure and atmosphere, climate, energy, and resources. The EGU 2019 General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria, from 7 to 12 April 2019. For information and press registration, please check https://media.egu.eu closer to the time of the meeting, or follow the EGU on Twitter (@EuroGeosciences) and Facebook (European Geosciences Union).

If you wish to receive our press releases via email, please use the Press Release Subscription Form at http://www.egu.eu/news/subscribe/. Subscribed journalists and other members of the media receive EGU press releases under embargo (if applicable) at least 24 hours in advance of public dissemination.

Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS) is an interdisciplinary and international journal dedicated to the public discussion and open-access publication of high-quality studies and original research on natural hazards and their consequences. Embracing a holistic Earth system science approach, NHESS serves a wide and diverse community of research scientists, practitioners, and decision makers concerned with detection of natural hazards, monitoring and modelling, vulnerability and risk assessment, and the design and implementation of mitigation and adaptation strategies, including economical, societal, and educational aspects.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Scientists
Melanie Froude
Senior Research Associate, Department of Geography
University of Sheffield, UK
m.froude@sheffield.ac.uk
@Froudo_baggins

David Petley
Vice-President for Research and Innovation
University of Sheffield, UK
+44(0)114 22 29821 (Debbie Cockerill, Personal Assistant)
d.n.petley@sheffield.ac.uk
@davepetley

Press officers
Bárbara Ferreira
EGU Media and Communications Manager
Munich, Germany
+49-89-2180-6703
media@egu.eu
@EuroGeosciences

Sheffield University media team
+44 (0)114 222 1047
mediateam@sheffield.ac.uk
@sheffielduni

Originalpublikation:

Froude, M. J. and Petley, D. N.: Global fatal landslide occurrence 2004 to 2016, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 2161, https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-18-2161-2018, 2018.

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.nat-hazards-earth-syst-sci.net/18/2161/2018 – scientific study (This link will be active once the embargo lifts. A preprint of the paper can be found via the link below while the embargo lasts)
http://www.egu.eu/news/424/landslides-triggered-by-human-activity-on-the-rise/

Dr. Bárbara Ferreira | European Geosciences Union

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Drought hits rivers first and more strongly than agriculture
06.09.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

nachricht Study relating to materials testing Detecting damages in non-magnetic steel through magnetism
23.07.2018 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Goodbye, silicon? On the way to new electronic materials with metal-organic networks

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.

Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Conference to pave the way for new therapies

17.10.2018 | Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

RUDN chemist tested a new nanocatalyst for obtaining hydrogen

18.10.2018 | Life Sciences

Massive organism is crashing on our watch

18.10.2018 | Earth Sciences

Electrical enhancement: Engineers speed up electrons in semiconductors

18.10.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>