Topographic site effects and the location of earthquake induced landslides

Meunier, P. and Hovius, N. and Haines, A. J. (2008) Topographic site effects and the location of earthquake induced landslides. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 275 (3-4). pp. 221-232. DOI

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n the epicentral areas of major recent earthquakes, landslide density scales with peak ground acceleration. Topographic site effects on seismic waves are known to cause important gradients in ground acceleration in individual mountain ridges. Using landslide maps from the epicentral areas of earthquakes near Northridge, California, Chi-Chi, Taiwan, and the Finisterre Mountains of Papua New Guinea, we have investigated the control of these site effects over the location of earthquake induced slope failure. In our examples, earthquake-triggered landslides clustered near ridge crests, where the susceptibility to landsliding was greatest. This pattern is strongest in the Northridge epicentral area, and secondary landslide clusters were found in colluvial slope toes in western Taiwan and above inner gorges in the Finisterre Mountains. In contrast, rainfall-triggered landslides in the western Southern Alps of New Zealand were evenly distributed over all slope segments, and the landslide susceptibility was lowest near ridge crests. Observed patterns of earthquake induced landsliding are consistent in a diverse geological substrate. They correlate with the distribution of very steep slopes in the epicentral areas, but we demonstrate that topographic site effects can also be a strong control. Using the impedance operator method, we have modeled the propagation of seismic waves in a generic ridge-and-valley topography with and without inner gorge. This topography has little effect on incoming P waves, but a strong effect on S waves, giving rise to a significant amplification of peak ground accelerations at or near ridge crests, and at convex knickpoints within ridge flanks. The preferential orientation of landslides away from earthquake epicenters in the Finisterre Mountains and central west Taiwan is likely caused by asymmetric amplification of oblique incoming seismic waves across mountain ridges, and indicates that topographic site effects have dominated over topographic controls on landslide location in these areas. Although orientation of landslides in the Northridge area does not conform with this interpretation, our results suggest that knowledge of topographic site effects and the attenuation of seismic waves can be an important tool in the prediction of spatial patterns of earthquake induced landsliding.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 08AREP IA57 2008 P
Subjects: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Divisions: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Journal or Publication Title: Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume: 275
Page Range: pp. 221-232
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2009 13:03
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 10:07

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