Large earthquakes initiate chains of surface processes that last much longer than the brief moments of strong shaking. Most moderate‐ and large‐magnitude earthquakes trigger landslides, ranging from small failures in the soil cover to massive, devastating rock avalanches. Some landslides dam rivers and impound lakes, which can collapse days to centuries later, and flood mountain valleys for hundreds of kilometers downstream. Landslide deposits on slopes can remobilize during heavy rainfall and evolve into debris flows. Cracks and fractures can form and widen on mountain crests and flanks, promoting increased frequency of landslides that lasts for decades. More gradual impacts involve the flushing of excess debris downstream by rivers, which can generate bank erosion and floodplain accretion as well as channel avulsions that affect flooding frequency, settlements, ecosystems, and infrastructure. Ultimately, earthquake sequences and their geomorphic consequences alter mountain landscapes over both human and geologic time scales. Two recent events have attracted intense research into earthquake‐induced landslides and their consequences: the magnitude M 7.6 Chi‐Chi, Taiwan earthquake of 1999, and the M 7.9 Wenchuan, China earthquake of 2008. Using data and insights from these and several other earthquakes, we analyze how such events initiate processes that change mountain landscapes, highlight research gaps, and suggest pathways toward a more complete understanding of the seismic effects on the Earth's surface.
Abstract. We release two datasets that track the enhanced landsliding induced by the
2008 Mw 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake over a portion of the Longmen
Mountains, at the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau (Sichuan, China). The
first dataset is a geo-referenced multi-temporal polygon-based inventory of
pre- and coseismic landslides, post-seismic remobilisations of coseismic
landslide debris and post-seismic landslides (new failures). It covers
471 km2 in the earthquake's epicentral area, from 2005 to 2018. The
second dataset records the debris flows that occurred from 2008 to 2017 in a
larger area (∼17 000 km2), together with information on their
triggering rainfall as recorded by a network of rain gauges. For some
well-monitored events, we provide more detailed data on rainfall, discharge,
flow depth and density. The datasets can be used to analyse, on various
scales, the patterns of landsliding caused by the earthquake. They can be
compared to inventories of landslides triggered by past or new earthquakes or
by other triggers to reveal common or distinctive controlling factors. To our
knowledge, no other inventories that track the temporal evolution of
earthquake-induced mass wasting have been made freely available thus far. Our
datasets can be accessed from https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1405489.
We also encourage other researchers to share their datasets to facilitate
research on post-seismic geological hazards.
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