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Tumbi Landslide, Papua New Guinea: rainfall induced?


On 24 January 2012, a fatal landslide with an estimated volume of 3 Mm3 hit villagers and infrastructure in the Tagali Valley, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Although a moderate event by PNG standards, the associated human casualties and infrastructure destruction give a human as well as a scientific need to review the potential causes for the event. PNG experiences numerous landslides annually, most of which are trigged either by rainfall events or seismic activity. Here, we review the short-term rainfall patterns leading up to the slope failure at Tumbi Quarry and compare the rainfall accumulations obtained over durations of 30, 60 and 90 days prior to the landslide, with comparable rainfall accumulations obtained for other failures observed in PNG over a 12-year period. Additionally, a review of long-term rainfall over a period of 6 months prior to the failure is completed as well as an assessment of seismic activity. Based on our analysis, we believe a seismic trigger to be very unlikely, while the increase in rainfall in the 2 weeks prior to the failure in conjunction with a high-intensity rainfall event at the end of October 2011 could have had a greater influence in enhancing rather than restraining slope failure. This, in addition to natural denudational processes, geological structure and the anthropogenic activity in the vicinity of the landslide, could all have served to affect slope stability.

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This research was jointly supported by the UK Meteorological Office, University of Leicester and University of Papua New Guinea. We thank Elizabeth Michael, Principal Engineering Geologist at the Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management, Papua New Guinea who kindly provided original photographs and satellite imagery of the landslide for this analysis. Analyses conducted in this paper were produced with the Giovanni online data system, developed and maintained by the NASA GES DISC.

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Correspondence to Joanne C. Robbins.

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Robbins, J.C., Petterson, M.G., Mylne, K. et al. Tumbi Landslide, Papua New Guinea: rainfall induced?. Landslides 10, 673–684 (2013).

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  • Landslide
  • Rainfall
  • Earthquake
  • Quarry