The work, presented online May 27 in Nature Geoscience, shows that once the angle of a slope exceeds 30 degrees – whether from uplift, a rushing stream carving away the bottom of the slope or a combination of the two – landslide erosion increases significantly until the hillside stabilizes.
The Landsat satellite image at left shows a huge lake on the Tsangpo River behind a dam created by a landslide (in red, lower right of the lake) in early 2000. The image at right shows the river following a catastrophic breach of the dam in June 2000. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/NASA
"I think the formation of these landscapes could apply to any steep mountain terrain in the world," said lead author Isaac Larsen, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences.
The study, co-authored by David Montgomery, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences and Larsen's doctoral adviser, focuses on landslide erosion along rivers in the eastern Himalaya region of southern Asia.
The scientists studied images of more than 15,000 landslides before 1974 and more than 550 more between 1974 and 2007. The data came from satellite imagery, including high-resolution spy satellite photography that was declassified in the 1990s.
They found that small increases in slope angle above about 30 degrees translated into large increases in landslide erosion as the stress of gravity exceeded the strength of the bedrock.
"Interestingly, 35 degrees is about the same angle that will form if sand or other coarse granular material is poured into a pile," Larsen said. "Sand is non-cohesive, whereas intact bedrock can have high cohesion and should support steeper slopes.
"The implication is that bedrock in tectonically active mountains is so extensively fractured that in some ways it behaves like a sand pile. Removal of sand at the base of the pile will cause miniature landslides, just as erosion of material at the base of hill slopes in real mountain ranges will lead to landslides."
The researchers looked closely at an area of the 150-mile Tsangpo Gorge in southeast Tibet, possibly the deepest gorge in the world, downstream from the Yarlung Tsangpo River where the Po Tsangpo River plunges more than 6,500 feet, about 1.25 miles. It then becomes the Brahmaputra River before flowing through the Ganges River delta and into the Bay of Bengal.
The scientists found that within the steep gorge, the rapidly flowing water can scour soil from the bases, or toes, of slopes, leaving exposed bedrock and an increased slope angle that triggers landslides to stabilize the slopes.
From 1974 through 2007, erosion rates reached more than a half-inch per year along some 6-mile stretches of the river within the gorge, and throughout that active landslide region erosion ranged from 0.15 to 0.8 inch per year. Areas with less tectonic and landslide activity experienced erosion rates of less than 0.15 inch a year.
Images showed that a huge landslide in early 2000 created a gigantic dam on a stretch of the Po Tsangpo. The dam failed catastrophically in June of that year, and the ensuing flood caused a number of fatalities and much property damage downstream.
That event illustrates the processes at work in steep mountain terrain, but the processes happen on a faster timescale in the Tsangpo Gorge than in other steep mountain regions of the world and so are more easily verified.
"We've been able to document the role that landslides play in the Tsangpo Gorge," Larsen said. "It explains how steep mountain topography evolves over time."
The work was financed by NASA, the Geological Society of America, Sigma Xi (the Scientific Research Society) and the UW Quaternary Research Center and Department of Earth and Space Sciences.
For more information, contact Larsen at 206-265-0473 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Montgomery at 206-685-2560 or email@example.com
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Upwards with the “bubble shuttle”: How sea floor microbes get involved with methane reduction in the water column
27.05.2020 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
An international team including scientists from MARUM discovered ongoing and future tropical diversity decline
26.05.2020 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen
In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".
Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...
Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...
Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.
When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...
Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.
Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...
Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.
A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...
19.05.2020 | Event News
07.04.2020 | Event News
06.04.2020 | Event News
29.05.2020 | Materials Sciences
29.05.2020 | Materials Sciences
29.05.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering