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Slip rates variability and sediment mobilization on a shallow landslide in the northern Swiss Alps


Geomorphic and morphometric data imply that process rates of the Schimbrig landslide, located in the Entle watershed (Central Switzerland), are still limited by the elevation of the LGM base level. At present, the Entle watershed is in a stage of adjusting to the lowered post-glacial base level as indicated by knick zones in the trunk stream. Some thousands of years later when these knick zones will reach the Schimbrig site, we anticipate a substantial increase in process rates and sediment flux for the landslide.

The pattern of slip rates was measured on the Schimbrig landslide over a 14-months period. We propose that a Bingham plastic model explains much of how measured slip rates are linked to the observed topography, climatic variations and thickness variability of the landslide mass. This model explains why slip rates have been highest where the thickness of the material is substantially higher. It also explains why slip rates are highest in late summer/autumn and early spring. It appears then that snow melt in spring and decreasing temperatures in late summer/autumn potentially result in a high retention of the pore water and thus in a low viscosity of the material, which, in turns, promotes slip rates. Interestingly, an extreme rainstorm like the one of August 2005 only had a local impact on the landslide mass by triggering small scale earth flows and debris flows. This implies that the earth slide material does not directly respond to an episodic pattern of rainfall. Such precipitation events, however, superimpose a smaller-scale imprint on the landslide relief.

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Correspondence to Marco Schwab.

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Manuscript received July 14, 2006 Revision accepted December 14, 2006

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Schwab, M., Läderach, C., Rieke-Zapp, D. et al. Slip rates variability and sediment mobilization on a shallow landslide in the northern Swiss Alps. Swiss j geosci 100, 281–292 (2007).

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  • sediment mobilization
  • slip rates
  • landslide
  • Central Switzerland
  • geomorphology