The 2016 Lamplugh rock avalanche, Alaska: deposit structures and emplacement dynamics

Abstract

Supraglacial landslides result from the catastrophic failure of periglacial rock slopes and deposit large volumes of rock and ice onto the glacier surface. The most remarkable features of these landslides are their prominent long flowbands and a high mobility that exceeds that of their counterparts in other environments. Based on field surveys, high-resolution digital elevation models, and continuous seismic data, we show that the emplacement dynamics of the 2016 rock avalanche on Lamplugh Glacier were characterized by two distinct stages. During the first stage, the debris traveled about 5 km from the base of the slope. Clear long-period seismic signals during this stage record strong interactions of the rock avalanche debris with the ground, suggesting dynamic processes such as grain collisions and fragmentation. The second stage was essentially aseismic at long periods and dominated by low-friction sliding at slow deceleration rates. A higher density of flowbands and increased entrainment of snow from the runout path characterize the morphology of this second-stage distal deposition. Around the margins, lobes are offset by up to 400 m along major strike-slip faults, whereas within individual lobes, offsets between flowbands are much less pronounced (0 to < 10 m). The two-stage emplacement model may explain the higher apparent mobility of supraglacial landslides.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Marc-André Brideau, Bill Schulz, Rex Baum, Janet Slate, an anonymous reviewer, and the journal editor for their constructive reviews; Colin Stark for helpful discussions in the field; Katreen Wikstrom Jones for her help in processing some of the photogrammetric data used in this study; and Marianne Dohms of RWTH-Aachen University, Germany, for grain size analyses.

The authors appreciate support and funding from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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Correspondence to A. Dufresne.

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Suppl.-A
figure18

Histrogram of furrow (representative of flowbands) number versus length. (PNG 437 kb)

Suppl-B
figure19

(A) Generalized direction of crevasses on the Lamplugh Glacier (purple lines), mapped from DigitalGlobe imagery collected on 2 October 2015. The red box indicates the extent of (B) and (C). (B) Orientation and geometry of crevasses on the surface of the Lamplugh Glacier as shown in DigitalGlobe imagery from 2 October 2015. (C) Transverse extensional features (section 4.4.1) shown on a hillshade of the Lamplugh rock avalanche deposit differ in both size and orientation from crevasses on the underlying glacier surface. (PNG 28893 kb)

Suppl.-C
figure20

Spatial and size distribution of megablocks. (PNG 2633 kb)

Suppl.-D
figure21

Rock avalanche velocity as derived from runup heights versus runout distance. The black circles correspond to runup locations R1-R4 (cf. Fig. 16C). A theoretical residual velocity at the toe margin before stopping was calculated using the linear fit equation shown in the plot. (PNG 345 kb)

High Resolution Image (TIF 437 kb)

High Resolution Image (TIF 28893 kb)

High Resolution Image (TIF 2633 kb)

High Resolution Image (TIF 345 kb)

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Dufresne, A., Wolken, G.J., Hibert, C. et al. The 2016 Lamplugh rock avalanche, Alaska: deposit structures and emplacement dynamics. Landslides 16, 2301–2319 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10346-019-01225-4

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Keywords

  • Supraglacial
  • Rock avalanche
  • Lamplugh glacier
  • Flowbands
  • Seismic signals
  • Runout dynamics