Dynamics of slow-moving landslides from permanent scatterer analysis

Science. 2004 Jun 25;304(5679):1952-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1098821.


High-resolution interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) permanent scatterer data allow us to resolve the rates and variations in the rates of slow-moving landslides. Satellite-to-ground distances (range changes) on landslides increase at rates of 5 to 7 millimeters per year, indicating average downslope sliding velocities from 27 to 38 millimeters per year. Time-series analysis shows that displacement occurs mainly during the high-precipitation season; during the 1997-1998 El Niño event, rates of range change increased to as much as 11 millimeters per year. The observed nonlinear relationship of creep and precipitation rates suggests that increased pore fluid pressures within the shallow subsurface may initiate and accelerate these features. Changes in the slope of a hill resulting from increases in the pore pressure and lithostatic stress gradients may then lead to landslides.