Slo-mo landslide

Contributed by
Jun 4, 2011

An unusual amount of rain coupled with faster than average snow melt has triggered landslides throughout Canada and the United States. In western Wyoming, one came down on highway US 26-89 in Snake River Canyon. Days later, the landslide is still moving at about a half meter (18 inches) per hour, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation took an interesting time lapse video of it:

I had no real sense of how big or small this was until the guy ran in. It looks funny, but geez, there's no way I'd stand on an active landslide, even if it were moving that slowly.

This makes me wonder if this might be another unforeseen consequence of climate change. Simply put, snow forms in storm systems when moisture gets carried upwards and freezes. More moisture means more snow can form. Warmer weather means more evaporation on the surface, so more moisture in clouds, and more snowfall. That's how global warming can, seemingly paradoxically, mean more snowfall. Then, in the spring, when the weather warms up earlier and with higher temperatures, that snow will melt more rapidly, causing floods and landslides. Fun.

For more information, check out the American Geophysical Union's blog post about the landslide.

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