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Engineering geomorphological characterisation of the Vajont Slide, Italy, and a new interpretation of the chronology and evolution of the landslide

Abstract

Although the 1963 Vajont Slide in Italy has been extensively studied for over 50 years, its regional geological and geomorphological context has been neglected. In this paper, we use field observations and remote sensing data to elucidate the interaction between endogenic and exogenic processes that brought the north slope of Monte Toc to failure. We present the first detailed pre- and post-failure engineering geomorphology maps of the slide area. The maps delineate two main landslide blocks, several sub-blocks, compressional and extensional zones, and secondary failures in the deposit. The maps provide new insights into the kinematics, dynamics and evolution of the slide. Finally, we discuss the origin of Vajont Gorge and a prehistoric failure that occurred at the same location as the 1963 slide. We propose, as part of a newly developed multi-stage landscape evolution sequence, that the prehistoric failure was a deep-seated gravitational slope deformation (sackung) that initiated during deglaciation and continued to slowly move until the catastrophic failure in 1963. We argue that the gorge was created by these deep-seated slow movements.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge contributions from our colleagues R. Genevois, M. Massironi, L. Superchi, and L. Zorzi at the University of Padova, D. Donati at Simon Fraser University, and J. Griffiths at University of Plymouth. The Friuli-Venezia-Giulia Region provided LiDAR and DEM data. Research was funded through a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Post-graduate Scholarship to A. Wolter and NSERC Discovery Grants to D. Stead, B.C. Ward, and J.J. Clague.

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Correspondence to Andrea Wolter.

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Wolter, A., Stead, D., Ward, B.C. et al. Engineering geomorphological characterisation of the Vajont Slide, Italy, and a new interpretation of the chronology and evolution of the landslide. Landslides 13, 1067–1081 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10346-015-0668-0

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Keywords

  • Vajont Slide
  • Engineering geomorphology
  • Regional geomorphology
  • Endogenic processes
  • Exogenic processes
  • Sackung
  • Rock slope damage