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Mass Movements

Mass movements


  • Mass Movement
  • Mass movement refers to the gravitational or downslope movement of weathered rock debris.
  • Gravity is the primary force responsible for transporting materials downhill.
  • Other transporting mediums such as water, wind, waves, and glaciers are not directly involved but can contribute to mass movement.
  • Weakening internal cohesion and structural instability are the most common cause of mass movements.
  • Landslides and Avalanches are the two most common types of mass movements.
  • Landslides
  • Landslides are the perceptible downslope movement of rock, debris, or earth.
  • They are caused by a large volume and combination of rock, debris, soil, and water moving under the influence of gravity and water.
  • Landslides can be triggered or aggravated by factors such as additional weight, seepage pressure, or lubrication.
  • Methods of stabilizing hill slopes can help reduce the impact and vulnerability of landslide-related hazards.
  • Avalanches
  • Avalanches refer to the fall or rapid downslope movement of snow.
  • They are caused by structural weaknesses or gravity.
  • Structural weaknesses can include the existence of solid bedrock acting as a slide plane below weak material.
  • Avalanches tend to occur in the same places and can be recurrent.
  • Ski resorts are particularly prone to avalanches.


Movement categoryTypes of materialsSpeed of onset
Bed rockCoarseFineHigh (slope angle or gradient plays the major role)

Low (water plays an important role)
FallRock fallDebris fallEarth fall
ToppleRock toppleDebris toppleEarth topple
SlideRock slideDebris slideEarth slide
SpreadRock spreadDebris spreadEarth spread
FlowRock flowDebris flowEarth flow
CreepRock creepTalus creepSoil creep/Terracettes

Extreme Avalanches


Factors that promote Landslides

Prolonged rainfall: Saturate soil and increase the possibility of soil movement

Removal of Vegetation: Roots bind the soil and intercept the water flow.

Rock type and Permeability: Permeable rocks get saturated quickly and is more likely to move than the solid bedrock

Construction of buildings and excavation: Increase weight on the slop and add to downward pull of gravity. Excavation is responsible for the undercutting of slopes and increases instability.

Methods of stabilizing slopes and reducing the risk landslides

Draining of extra water: This increases the shear strength of the rocks by reducing the pore-water pressure.

Terracing: Generates more stable angle

Toe stabilization and hazard resistant design by using retaining wall, anchors (rock armour), gabions: Retaining wall are used to stabilize the upper slope. Steel-mesh curtain are often used as retaining wall. The materials deposited at the slope foot (toe) are also stabilized by a retaining wall. Anchors are normally used at the upper slopes.

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