Slow mass movement in the Kangchenjunga area, eastern Nepal Himalaya



Abstract  The rates of the accumulated and continuous displacement of solifluction lobes in the Kangchenjunga area, eastern Nepal Himalaya, were determined using glass fiber tubes and a strain probe. Ground temperature, precipitation and soil moisture were monitored at two sites, whose altitude differed by approximately 100 m, to understand the solifluction process. The average movement rate of the glass fiber tubes on a 31° slope at altitudes of 5412–5414 m a.s.l. was approximately 11 mm/year, being almost threefold greater than that observed on a 22° slope at 5322–5325 ma.s.l. There was no significant difference in the depth of displacement at these sites. The continuous displacement measurement near the ground surface at 5414 m showed permanent downslope movement from early July. Such movement may be attributed to additional moisture supply during the monsoon season. The amplitude of the displacement cycle was highest at the ground surface, and decreased to virtually zero at and below 20 cm in depth. Probable factors leading to the relatively slow rates of downslope displacement at the surface and depth at the studied altitudes are the lack of concurrence of the freeze–thaw cycles and the high moisture condition in the soil, and the low moisture retention capacity of the soil because of steep slopes and superficial desiccation. The rate of displacement may be more pronounced at altitudes above 5600 m because of the freeze–thaw cycles during the summer season.