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22 June 2021

Low-displacement landslides explain unusual West Virginia landscape features visible in lidar imagery

Like so many older landslides in the Appalachians, the significance and cause of these features is unknown. Because they are so numerous and are only visible using lidar data acquired in 2016, they may represent an untapped resource of useful information about the recent history of Appalachian landscapes.

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24 March 2021

What does that landslide actually look like, part 2: an active landslide

As indicated in the previous post, lidar-derived imagery still needs ground-truthing to maximize its usefulness as a means of characterizing landslides and other slope failures. Last June, Ken Gillon and I visited the Rutherford County, North Carolina, landslide described below as part of our work with Appalachian Landslide Consultants, PLLC (ALC) on behalf of the North Carolina Geological Survey. This slide caught my eye in lidar hillshade imagery because it appeared to share characteristics with an active slide we had visited a few days before.

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1 March 2021

What does that landslide actually look like?

We have no constraints on the age of the slides, but they may reflect logging history in the area. The majority of these slopes were heavily and continuously logged during the past ~150 years, with logging in this area clearly occurring within the past 50 years. The slides may have developed after clear-cuts, with the rapid return of vegetation common in the region quickly making the area look less disturbed than it really is.

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24 February 2021

Lidar-derived imagery of 1949 debris flows on North Fork Mountain, Grant County, West Virginia

Debris flow events present a significant hazard to life and property in all parts of the Appalachians. The 1949 event that created the features shown here caused 8 fatalities and displaced a tremendous number of residents. Detailed mapping…along with analysis of detailed surface imagery, can greatly enhance understanding of where debris flows begin and where they travel. This understanding, in turn, can potentially reduce the human impact of these particularly dynamic and mobile slope failure events.

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11 January 2021

The Ray Sponaugle well: A 13,000-ft lesson in Appalachian Valley and Ridge structure

“To the surprise of the drillers and geologists involved with the project, the well bore never got anywhere close to the Cambrian quartzite. At 10,000 ft (3,010 m) below the surface, the well passed through a thrust fault and entered a tight, nearly recumbent syncline cored by the same Ordovician shale unit into which drilling began.”

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4 December 2020

Lidar hillshade imagery hints at the location of a future coal spoil landslide

A coal spoil landslide in southeastern Wise County, Virginia, appears traceable to a faint scarp visible in the spoil pile in a 2017 lidar dataset. The slide pre-dates October 2019 Google Earth imagery and post-dates the 2017 lidar data acquisition.

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5 October 2020

Interesting “sideways” movement of a large sandstone blockslide

A large sandstone blockslide in Highland County, Virginia presents an unusual appearance in LiDAR hillshade imagery–it appears to have moved sideways across a slope instead of directly down the slope.

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24 September 2020

LiDAR reveals the cloth-like appearance of a “wrinkled” translational landslide

The Virginia Valley and Ridge hosts plenty of amazing landslide features, but this wrinkled translational slide in Botetourt County, Virginia is particuarly eye-catching. It reminds me of the wrinkling that might occur in a thin layer of cloth pushed along a smooth surface–something like pushing a napkin or tablecloth along a tabletop.

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28 August 2020

The Geo Models: Landslides associated with historic iron mining in the Virginia Valley and Ridge

The sharpness of these landslide features suggests they may still be slowly moving, but very little disruption to vegetation is visible in satellite imagery, so movement is probably very slow. Since their maximum age is known (the time of mining; late 1800s-1920s), they offer interesting comparison to older, natural landslides in the area, which tend to have softened, rounded features due to weathering and erosion.

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28 July 2020

Fault-propagation folds in a sandbox model

New from The Geo Models: “These anticlines are recognizable as fault-propagation folds because the fault that offsets the deepest blue layer does not cut upward through the entire section. Displacement along the fault at depth is accommodated by folding of the overlying, un-faulted layers.”

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19 June 2020

Fold-thrust belt outcrop pattern with doubly-plunging anticline

The latest post from The Geo Models blog.

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4 June 2020

Looking for southern Appalachian rockfall scars using a high-resolution LiDAR dataset

I was able to find what I believe to be a few examples of “boulder tracks” using outstanding LiDAR hillshade imagery from the North Carolina Geological Survey. All features shown occur in generally gneissic bedrock on extensively forested slopes that have been logged within the last century.

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22 May 2020

Slump landslide models, with some rock or debris avalanche characteristics

New from The Geo Models blog: “The model landslides in this post were produced at the same time as the Llusco landslide model I wrote about last year. They were created using a similar setup, but the slide masses behaved very differently during movement.”

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15 May 2020

A simple rift basin sandbox model with normal faults

A simple model of a continental rift basin that develops some characteristics of the real thing can be made by constructing a layered sand cake on top of two overlapping sheets of paper, one of which is anchored to the underlying board, etc. This model setup will produce an asymmetric half-graben style of basin, which has a single, high displacement breakaway fault on one side and several smaller faults on the other.

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22 April 2020

Listric normal faults with glass microbeads

Latest from from The Geo Models: Deformation associated with listric (downward flattening) normal faults produces very interesting patterns.

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7 April 2020

Interesting reverse faults in a simple extensional sandbox model

The different mechanical properties of the layers are apparent in the dip angles of the normal faults in the model. The master fault on the left side of the model (black line) is less steep in the weak microbeads, an expression of how their failure behavior differs from the stronger layers above and below.

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25 March 2020

Cracked mountaintops Part 2: Sinking summits?

Some upper Devonian sandstone mountains in the Virginia Valley and Ridge show evidence of deep-seated landsliding, resulting in the formation of a downthrown block (graben) along the summit ridge.

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20 March 2020

Cracked mountaintops of the Virginia Valley and Ridge

A newly-released LiDAR data set reveals impressive ridge-top cracks associated with large rock slides in the Virginia Valley and Ridge. While the cracks are easily visible with LiDAR hillshade imagery, they appear to be covered by normal forest vegetation and would probably look like elongated depressions in the forest.

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10 March 2020

A sandbox model without fault(s)?

Fold-thrust belts (both real and model, like this one) develop fault and fold patterns that reflect the properties of the rock (or sand-like materials) being deformed. The model section shown (shown here) is interesting because it results from shortening a granular layer sequence by 50% and does not show any major thrust fault structures that cut through all of the layers…

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17 February 2020

Outcrop patterns in a fold-thrust belt analog model, round 1

The model shown here did not work out as planned because I shortened it too much, but the overall appearance is still cool and reflects local variations in the layer pack. In real fold-thrust belts, the local or regional variations in folding and faulting style also reflect the details of the layer sequence being folded and faulted, among many other conditions.

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