Top-Ten paper at GSA
2017-01-23 | CGS Admin
On May 25, 2014 the longest landslide in Colorado’s historical record occurred in west-central Colorado, six miles (10 km) southeast of the small town of Collbran in Mesa County, taking the lives of three local men. The landslide was 2.8 miles (4.5 km) long, covering almost a square mile (2.6 km2) of the West Salt Creek valley and the net volume displacement was 38 million yd3 (29 million m3). The fast-moving (40-85 mph, 60-130 kmh), high-mobility landslide was caused by an initial rotational slide of a half-mile-wide (0.8 km) block of Eocene Green River Formation. The resultant rock failures, rockmass disaggregation, and mostly valley-constrained rock avalanche, dropped approximately 2,100 ft (650 m) in elevation as a rapid series of cascading surges of chaotic rubble composed of fragments of pulverized rock, vegetation, topsoil, and mud. Local seismometers recorded a magnitude 2.8 earthquake from the event with a seismic wave train duration of approximately three minutes. The toe of the landslide came within 200 ft (60 m) of active gas-production wellheads and loss of irrigation ditches and water impacted local ranches and residents.
The CGS’s Matt Morgan and Jon White were two of the co-authors on one of the top-ten Geological Society of America (GSA) 2016 book chapters and journal articles, this out of 600 papers. The article describes a comprehensive forensic analysis of the massive West Salt Creek rock avalanche that occurred in late May 2014 in western Colorado (USA). The analysis relied on large-scale (1:1000) structural mapping accomplished via high-resolution unmanned aircraft system imagery along with seismic data generated by more than twenty stations within approximately 500 miles (800 km) of the event. The avalanche was the largest mass-movement slope failure in the historical record of Colorado: it killed three people and narrowly avoided destroying a gas wellhead.
This paper was just one of the outcomes of CGS research into the causes of the West Salt Creek landslide. A comprehensive (and also award-winning) report, Bulletin 55 – The West Salt Creek Landslide: A Catastrophic Rockslide and Rock/Debris Avalanche in Mesa County details the entire scope of the geoscience work that the CGS and other agencies did on the catastrophic event.