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Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

Extracting source characteristics and dynamics of the August 2010 Mount Meager landslide from broadband seismograms


  • Kate Allstadt

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
    • Corresponding author: K. Allstadt, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Box 351310, 4000 15th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98195-1310, USA. (

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[1] Seismic methods can substantially improve the characterization of the dynamics of large and rapid landslides. Such landslides often generate strong long-period seismic waves due to the large-scale acceleration of the entire landslide mass, which, according to theory, can be approximated as a single-force mechanism at long wavelengths. I apply this theory and invert the long-period seismic waves generated by the 48.5 Mm3 August 2010 Mount Meager rockslide-debris flow in British Columbia. Using data from five broadband seismic stations 70 to 276 km from the source, I obtain a time series of forces the landslide exerted on the Earth, with peak forces of 1.0 × 1011 N. The direction and amplitude of the forces can be used to determine the timing and occurrence of events and subevents. Using this result, in combination with other field and geospatial evidence, I calculate an average horizontal acceleration of the rockslide of 0.39 m/s2 and an average apparent coefficient of basal friction of 0.38 ± 0.02, which suggests elevated basal fluid pressures. The direction and timing of the strongest forces are consistent with the centripetal acceleration of the debris flow around corners in its path. I use this correlation to estimate speeds, which peak at 92 m/s. This study demonstrates that the time series recording of forces exerted by a large and rapid landslide derived remotely from seismic records can be used to tie post-slide evidence to what actually occurred during the event and can serve to validate numerical models and theoretical methods.

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