, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 213–226 | Cite as

Characteristics of the Shetland Islands (UK) peat slides of 19 September 2003

  • A. P. DykesEmail author
  • J. Warburton
Original Article


An extreme rainfall event over the southern Shetland Islands in northern Scotland, UK, on 19 September 2003, triggered at least 20 significant peat slides and at least 15 smaller landslides of varying types. The peat slides were examined and surveyed to characterise and explain the distinctive morphological features that were produced. The failures varied in size from 0.4 to 7.3 ha (2,300 to 59,000 m3 displaced volumes of peat) and involved blanket peat up to 3 m deep and slope gradients as low as 4°. Almost all of the failure surfaces were located at the peat–mineral interface. The morphological features included large areas (up to 0.5 ha) of intact peat that moved without breaking up, linear compression and thrust features and unusual occurrences of mineral debris. These features suggest peat of high tensile strength throughout its depth and the generation of high and sometimes artesian water pressures at the base of the peat during the event. However, the variations between peat slides highlight some of the difficulties of trying to assess the susceptibility of blanket peat to failure without full knowledge of the local peat geotechnical properties and structural features within the peat mass.


Peat slides Blanket peat Shetland Islands Landslide morphology 



This study formed part of the research into the peat mass movements at Dooncarton Mountain, western Ireland, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (UK) Grant References NER/A/S/2003/00888 and 889. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not represent those held by any public and private bodies involved in ongoing investigations into the peat mass movement instabilities in Shetland. We thank Paul Carling and an anonymous referee for the comments that led to the improvements to this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth Sciences and Geography, Centre for Earth and Environmental Science ResearchKingston UniversityKingston-upon-ThamesUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyDurham UniversityDurhamUK

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