16 November 2020

The Meenbog peat slide in the Republic of Ireland

Posted by Dave Petley

The Meenbog peat slide in the Republic of Ireland

There was a great deal of interest over the weekend in a peat slide that was caught on video at Meenbog in the Republic of Ireland. The landslide occurred on 13 November 2020.  This is the video on Youtube:


The video is remarkable, showing rafts of bog with intact and upright trees sliding along a low angle slope.  The peat blog landslide is large – as is so often the case with landslides in peat, the landslide has runout a very long distance, all the way to the major watercourse.  There is an excellent drone video of the landslide track, also on Youtube:


The image below, a still from the video above, captures the upper part of the landslide:-

Meenbog peat landslide

The upper part of the Meenbog peat landslide in the Republic of Ireland. Image captured from a video posted to Youtube.


The upper portion of the Meenbog peat landslide is an extensional zone, almost certainly caused by retrogression (uphill expansion) of the slide after the initial failure.  It is possible that failure started towards the downslope end of this bowl.  It is unlikely to be a coincidence that a ditch crosses the slope at this point.  Downslope from the landslide becomes a channelised flow.

The landslide has occurred in an area in which construction is underway for the Meenbog wind farm, a project that has been controversial.  According to the Irish News, “The wind farm is owned by global retail giant Amazon, which aims to have the site operational by 2022“.

I have written about peat landslides previously, most notably in relation to the broadly similar Dawn of Hope peat landslide earlier this year.  Peat is a very strange geotechnical material, with very low density, low compressive strength but some strength in tension due to the fibrous nature of the material (which is how it can generate the rafts seen on low angled slopes).  It generally has an exceptionally high water content.  Once disturbed it has a very low shear strength, allowing long runout landslides to develop.  Especial care is needed to avoid instability in areas of blanket peat coverage.

The trees involved are Sitka spruce.  According to the USDA Forest Service, these trees have roots systems that are shallow and platelike with long lateral roots with few branchings. On deep well-drained soils the root system may reach depths of 6.5 feet (2 m), especially on alluvial soils. Root grafting often occurs between roots of the same tree and adjacent trees”.  This explains how trees can be involved in the rafts of the peat slide.

The threat of peat slides from wind farms is well-established – indeed in 2003 a major peat slide was triggered by the construction of a wind farm in Derrybrien.  As the Galway Daily notes:

“The Irish State was found to be in breach of environmental safeguards during the construction phase of the project.  On top of the €5 million lump sum which the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has confirmed as paid over, Ireland still faces daily fines of €15,000 until the situation is rectified.”

I find it hard to understand how this can happen again.


Quickslide 1: Hurricane Iota is heading for Central America

Over the last few hours Hurricane Iota has intensified rapidly to a category 4 storm.  It will make landfall in Nicaragua and Honduras in the next 24 hours.  A major disaster seems inevitable.

Quickslide 2: The anticipated landslide in West Dorset occurred on 15 November

On Friday in the Quickslide section I highlighted that a slope failure was developing near to West Bay in DorsetThis slope failed in the early morning of 15 November 2020.