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 infrastructure which will reduce the costs of living with landslides.

Although the physical causes of many landslides cannot be removed, geologic investigations, good engineering practices, and effective enforcement of land-use management regulations can reduce landslide hazards. It is also important to understand the science of landslides – their causes, movement characteristics, soil properties, the geology associated with them, and where they are likely to occur.

The USGS Landslide Hazards Program helps address these needs for improved understanding by conducting research on several fundamental aspects of landslides. Thus, USGS landslide research seeks answers to such questions as these:

  • Where and when will landslides occur?
  • How big will they be?
  • How fast and how far will landslides move?

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