, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 125–136 | Cite as

Extremely large rockslides and rock avalanches in the Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

  • Alexander L. StromEmail author
  • Oliver Korup
Original Article


Most systematic research on large rock-slope failures is geographically biased towards reports from Europe, the Americas, the Himalayas and China. Although reports exist on large rockslides and rock avalanches in the territory of the former Soviet Union, they are not readily available, and few translations have been made. To begin closing this gap, we describe here preliminary data from field reconnaissance, remote sensing and geomorphometry of nine extremely large rock-slope failures in the Tien Shan Mountains of central Kyrgyzstan. Each of these catastrophic and prehistoric failures exceeds an estimated 1 km3 in volume, and two of them involve about 10 km3. Failure of rock slopes in wide valleys favoured the emplacement of hummocky long-runout deposits, often spreading out over >10 km2, blocking major rivers. Most of these gigantic slope failures are located on or near active faults. Their spatial clustering and the high seismic activity in the Tien Shan support the hypothesis that strong seismic shaking caused or triggered most of these large-scale rock-slope failures. Nevertheless detailed field studies and laboratory analyses will be necessary to exclude hydroclimatic trigger mechanisms (precipitation, fluvial undercutting, permafrost degradation), and to determine their absolute ages, frequency and the large-landslide hazard of central Kyrgyzstan.


Rockslide Rock avalanche Tien Shan Kyrgyzstan Neotectonics Landslide dam 



We thank Hans-Balder Havenith and Kanatbek Abdrakhmatov for providing the seismotectonic base map, and Mauri McSaveney, Wish Mitchell and Nick Perrin for their useful comments and thorough reviews of the manuscript


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geospheres DynamicsMoscowRussia
  2. 2.WSL Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLFDavosSwitzerland

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