, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 67-80

Hummocks: how they form and how they evolve in rockslide-debris avalanches

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Abstract

Hummocks are topographic features of large landslides and rockslide-debris avalanches common in volcanic settings. We use scaled analog models to study hummock formation and explore their importance in understanding landslide kinematics and dynamics. The models are designed to replicate large-scale volcanic collapses but are relevant also to non-volcanic settings. We characterize hummocks in terms of their evolution, spatial distribution, and internal structure from slide initiation to final arrest. Hummocks initially form by extensional faulting as a landslide begins to move. During motion, individual large blocks develop and spread, creating an initial distribution, with small hummocks at the landslide front and larger ones at the back. As the mass spreads, hummocks can get wider but may decrease in height, break up, or merge to form bigger and long anticlinal hummocks when confined. Hummock size depends on their position in the initial mass, modified by subsequent breakup or coalescence. A hummock has normal faults that flatten into low-angle detachments and merge with a basal shear zone. In areas of transverse movement within a landslide, elongate hummocks develop between strike–slip flower structures. All the model structures are consistent with field observations and suggest a general brittle-slide emplacement for most landslide avalanches. Absence of hummocks and fault-like features in the deposit may imply a more fluidal flow of emplacement or very low cohesion of lithologies. Hummocks can be used as kinematic indicators to indicate landslide evolution and reconstruct initial failures and provide a framework with which to study emplacement dynamics.