DOI: 10.3390/rs16010117 ISSN: 2072-4292

Characterization of the Fels Landslide (Alaska) Using Combined Terrestrial, Aerial, and Satellite Remote Sensing Data

Davide Donati, Doug Stead, Bernhard Rabus, Jeanine Engelbrecht, John J. Clague, Stephen D. Newman, Mirko Francioni
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences

The characterization of landslides located in remote areas poses significant challenges due to the costs of reaching the sites and the lack of reliable subsurface data to constrain geological interpretations. In this paper, the advantages of combining field and remote sensing techniques to investigate the deformation and stability of rock slopes are demonstrated. The characterization of the Fels landslide, a large, slowly deforming rock slope in central Alaska, is described. Historical aerial imagery is used to highlight the relationship between glacier retreat and developing instability. Airborne laser scanning (ALS) and Structure-from-Motion (SfM) datasets are used to investigate the structural geological setting of the landslide, revealing a good agreement between structural discontinuities at the outcrop and slope scales. The magnitude, plunge, and direction of slope surface displacements and their changes over time are studied using a multi-temporal synthetic aperture radar speckle-tracking (SAR ST) dataset. The analyses show an increase in displacement rates (i.e., an acceleration of the movement) between 2010 and 2020. Significant spatial variations of displacement direction and plunge are noted and correlated with the morphology of the failure surface reconstructed using the vector inclination method (VIM). In particular, steeper displacement vectors were reconstructed in the upper slope, compared to the central part, thus suggesting a change in basal surface morphology, which is largely controlled by rock mass foliation. Through this analytical approach, the Fels landslide is shown to be a slow-moving, compound rockslide, the displacement of which is controlled by structural geological features and promoted by glacier retreat.

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