Failure mechanisms and deformation processes of a high-locality landslide at Tonghua Town, Li County, China, 2017

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High-locality landslides primarily occur in the upper zone of the failed slope, in which the slip surface is considerably higher than the foot of the slope. This paper discusses a high-locality landslide that occurred on August 8, 2017, on the left bank of Zagunao River in Tonghua Town, southwest China. The landslide, called the Tonghua landslide, originated on a 716-m-high hillslope, which was formed by preexisting glacial deposits. The main body of the landslide is currently suspended on hillslope, with a relative relief of 353 m and is undergoing progressive failure. The town of Tonghua is located downslope of this landslide, and hence, the landslide could cause severe damage, including casualties and the destruction of infrastructure. Very few mitigation measures have been implemented to reduce the potentially devastating consequences due to the high locality and continuous movement of the landslide. We conducted comprehensive studies including field investigations, aerial photographic interpretations, pluviometric regime analysis, and superficial displacement monitoring to understand the failure mechanism and evolutionary process of this ongoing landslide. Considering that a Ms 7.0 earthquake occurred in Jiuzhaigou, approximately 220 km northeast of Tonghua Town, on the same day as the landslide, and that sporadic but persistent rainfall occurred before slope failure, we believe that both the rainfall and the earthquake were potential triggers for this landslide. However, further studies are necessary to better understand the characteristics and to develop hazard mitigation strategies for this type of landslide.

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We wish to thank the anonymous referee for their careful reading and providing insightful comments to improve the initial version of this paper.

Funding information

This research was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41790433, 41877266) the National Key R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFC1501000), the State Key Laboratory of Geohazard Prevention and Geo-environment Protection Independent Research Project (Grant No. SKLGP2016Z014), and Youth Innovation Promotion Association.

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Correspondence to Chaojun Ouyang.

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Wang, D., Liu, M., Zhu, X. et al. Failure mechanisms and deformation processes of a high-locality landslide at Tonghua Town, Li County, China, 2017. Landslides 17, 165–177 (2020).

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  • High-locality landslide
  • Glacial deposit
  • Deformation processes
  • Failure mechanisms