Open image in new windowRock Avalanche Sedimentology—Recent Progress

  • Anja DufresneEmail author
Conference paper


Since Yarnold and Lombard (Field trip guidebook—Pacific section, 9–31, 1989) presented a systematic facies model for ancient rock avalanche deposits in dry climates, more landslide researchers have organized observations from one or more case studies into general sedimentological descriptions and facies models (references are provided in the main text). These recent advances show that rock avalanches are multi-facies deposits. Retention of source stratigraphy and a general three-part division of a coarse-grained, largely unfragmented upper part or carapace, a finer-grained body of diverse sedimentology, and a basal facies influenced by interactions with runout path materials are the most common observations. The greatest variation in the grain size distribution and comminution intensity occurs between the bouldery carapace and the matrix-supported interior, i.e. the body facies which constitutes the largest deposit volume. Most striking, but not surprising, is the highly heterogeneous nature of the body facies with a number of sub-facies and discontinuity layers, which must reflect highly heterogeneous states of stress within the deforming granular mass. These features within the body facies are the most important for studying those emplacement dynamics that are not affected by boundary conditions, such as runout path sediments. Where the base is exposed, a characteristic basal facies with substrate injections and/or a basal mixed zone and/or deformation features can be found, usually above a very sharp contact to the underlying, disrupted sediments. The overall commonalities of internal rock avalanche features indicate that some basic processes must act universally during their emplacement. The value of these sedimentological models and descriptions lies in contrasting universally valid features with those that are a function of unique geological, topographic, or structural settings, or which might suggest different/additional emplacement dynamics of a specific deposit.


Rock avalanche Sedimentology Depositional facies 



This research was funded by the German Research Foundation grant DU1294/2-1; project “Long-runout landslides: the influence of lithology on comminution, (micro-) structures, morphology, and runout”.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RWTH Aachen University, Engineering Geology and HydrogeologyAachenGermany

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