Do human activities cause landslides?

Yes, in some cases human activities can be a contributing factor in causing landslides. Many human-caused landslides can be avoided or mitigated. They are commonly a result of building roads and structures without adequate grading of slopes, poorly planned alteration of drainage patterns, and disturbing old landslides.

Detailed on-site investigation is required to determine the importance of human factors in causing any particular landslide.

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What should I know about wildfires and debris flows?

Wildland fires are inevitable in the western United States. Expansion of human development into forested areas has created a situation where wildfires can adversely affect lives and property, as can the flooding and landslides that occur in the aftermath of the fires. There is a need to develop tools and methods to identify and quantify the...

How do landslides cause tsunamis?

Tsunamis are large, potentially deadly and destructive sea waves, most of which are formed as a result of submarine earthquakes. They can also result from the eruption or collapse of island or coastal volcanoes and from giant landslides on marine margins. These landslides, in turn, are often triggered by earthquakes. Tsunamis can be generated on...

Under what circumstances do U.S. Geological Survey landslide personnel conduct field work in landslide-prone areas?

USGS landslide researchers have ongoing field projects in several areas of the United States, including parts of the Pacific coastal ranges, Rocky Mountains, and the Appalachians. USGS scientists also respond to major landslide events, including some that result in federally-declared disasters. In some cases, USGS scientists respond to landslides...

Can major landslides and debris flows happen in all areas of the U.S.?

Landslides can and do occur in every state and territory of the U.S.; however, the type, severity, and frequency of landslide activity varies from place to place, depending on the terrain, geology, and climate. Major storms have caused major or widespread landslides in Washington state, Oregon, California, Colorado, Idaho, Hawaii, Virginia, Ohio,...

What was the largest landslide in the United States? In the world?

The largest subaerial (on land) landslide in Earth's recorded history was connected with the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington state, USA. That landslide had a volume of 2.8 cubic kilometers (0.67 cubic miles) of material and the landslide traveled about 22.5 kilometers (14 miles) down the North Fork Toutle River. Average...

What is the difference between a landslide advisory, a landslide watch, and a landslide warning?

An advisory is a general statement about the potential of landslide activity in a given region relative to developing rainfall predictions. An advisory may include general statements about rainfall conditions that can lead to debris-flow activity, and list precautions to be taken in the event of heavy rainfall. A watch means that landslide-...

How many deaths result from landslides each year?

An average of 25-50 people are killed by landslides each year in the United States. The worldwide death toll per year due to landslides is in the thousands. Most landslide fatalities are from rock falls, debris flows, or volcanic debris flows (called lahars). Twenty-three people were killed, at least 167 injured, and more than 400 homes were...

Why study landslides?

Landslides are a serious geologic hazard common to almost every State in the United States. As people move into new areas of hilly or mountainous terrain, it is important to understand the nature of their potential exposure to landslide hazards, and how cities, towns, and counties can plan for land-use, engineering of new construction and...

What is a landslide and what causes one?

A landslide is defined as the movement of a mass of rock, debris, or earth down a slope. Landslides are a type of "mass wasting," which denotes any down-slope movement of soil and rock under the direct influence of gravity. The term "landslide" encompasses five modes of slope movement: falls, topples, slides, spreads, and flows. These are further...
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Date published: February 6, 2020

New Landslide Guidebook for Puerto Rico Residents

A new landslide guidebook released February 5 is now available for Puerto Rico residents to learn more about the landslide hazards that can impact the island.

Date published: October 9, 2019

Landslide Risks Highlighted in New Online Tool

The U.S. Geological Survey today unveiled a new web-based interactive map that marks an important step toward mapping areas that could be at higher risk for future landslides. In collaboration with state geological surveys and other federal agencies, USGS has compiled much of the existing landslide data into a searchable, web-based interactive map called the U.S. Landslide Inventory Map.

Date published: August 22, 2019

Potential Landslide Paths and Implications for Tsunami Hazards in Glacier Bay, Alaska – An Initial Investigation

A new "Science for Everyone" article summarizes a recent publication about the potential of landslide-triggered tsunamis in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

Date published: July 20, 2017

Landslide Assistance from the Air

The USGS uses cutting edge technologies to investigate and forecast landslides and other natural hazards.

Date published: July 11, 2017

Huge landslide on California’s Big Sur coast continues to change

The Mud Creek landslide on California’s Big Sur coast keeps eroding.

Date published: May 27, 2017

USGS helping to monitor and assess huge Big Sur landslide

USGS is collecting and analyzing air photos to help monitor a huge landslide that occurred May 20 on California’s Big Sur coast.

Date published: November 4, 2016

Imagery Reveals More Landslides in Western Columbia Gorge

New mapping in the western portion of the Columbia Gorge in Skamania County, Washington, shows previously unrecognized landslides beneath dense forest cover.

Date published: September 16, 2016

EarthView–Landslide Spreads 6 Miles Across Glacier Bay National Park

Two snapshots from Landsat show the extent of a landslide in an Alaska National Park.

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Big Sur landslide on May 20, 2017 showing material across Highway 1.
May 27, 2017

Big Sur landslide on May 20, 2017

USGS air photo of the Mud Creek landslide, taken on May 27, 2017.

Image: Landslide
March 14, 2016


A landslide that occurred in Laguna Beach, Bluebird Canyon, California.

Oso landslide. Huge swath of mountain missing.
December 31, 2014

Oso landslide

Oso landslide 2014

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Image: 2014 Landslide in Washington State
March 24, 2014

2014 Landslide in Washington State

Photograph from an aerial survey showing the extent and impacts from the landslide in northwest Washington that occurred on March 22, 2014. The survey was conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, USGS, and King County Sheriff's Office.

May 9, 2012

Volcano Web Shorts 2: Debris Flows

Debris flows are hazardous flows of rock, sediment and water that surge down mountain slopes and into adjacent valleys. Hydrologist Richard Iverson describes the nature of debris-flow research and explains how debris flow experiments are conducted at the USGS Debris Flow Flume, west of Eugene, Oregon. Spectacular debris flow footage, recorded by Franck Lavigne of the

Image: 2007 Landslide in La Jolla, California
October 4, 2007

2007 Landslide in La Jolla, California

This event occurred on October 4, 2007 in La Jolla, California. A landslide, perhaps first indicated in July by cracks appearing in pavement and homes along Soledad Mountain Road, struck suddenly when a massive slab of hillside broke loose, sending tons of dirt cascading toward streets below.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists Randy Jibson and Jon Godt
November 30, 2000

New Zealand Landslide

U.S. Geological Survey scientists Randy Jibson and Jon Godt investigate the Seaside landslide that was triggered by the 2016 magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura, New Zealand, earthquake, along a fault that experienced significant surface offsets. USGS photograph by Kate Allstadt.

Image: 2008 Landslide Near Hongyan Resort, China

2008 Landslide Near Hongyan Resort, China

The May 12, 2008, Great Sichuan Earthquake, also called the Wenchuan Earthquake, occurred at 14:28 local time, in Sichuan Province, China. The earthquake magnitudes were Mw = 7.9 (USGS), Ms = 8.0 (Chinese Earthquake Administration). The epicenter was 80 km west-northwest of Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province. Damage by earthquake-induced landslides was