Simple Scaling of Catastrophic Landslide Dynamics

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Abstract

Catastrophic landslides involve the acceleration and deceleration of millions of tons of rock and debris in response to the forces of gravity and dissipation. Their unpredictability and frequent location in remote areas have made observations of their dynamics rare. Through real-time detection and inverse modeling of teleseismic data, we show that landslide dynamics are primarily determined by the length scale of the source mass. When combined with geometric constraints from satellite imagery, the seismically determined landslide force histories yield estimates of landslide duration, momenta, potential energy loss, mass, and runout trajectory. Measurements of these dynamical properties for 29 teleseismogenic landslides are consistent with a simple acceleration model in which height drop and rupture depth scale with the length of the failing slope.

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