Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Landslide monitoring in the Atlantic Highlands area, New Jersey

August 25, 2017

Shallow and deep-seated landslides have occurred episodically on the steep coastal bluffs of the Atlantic Highlands area (Boroughs of Atlantic Highlands and Highlands) in New Jersey. The oldest documented deep-seated landslide occurred in April 1782 and significantly changed the morphology of the bluff. However, recent landslides have been mostly shallow in nature and have occurred during large storms with exceptionally heavy rainfall. These shallow landslides have resulted in considerable damage to residential property and local infrastructure and threatened human safety.

The recent shallow landslides in the area (locations modified from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection) consist primarily of slumps and flows of earth and debris within areas of historical landslides or on slopes modified by human activities. Such landslides are typically triggered by increases in shallow soil moisture and pore-water pressure caused by sustained and intense rainfall associated with spring nor’easters and late summer–fall tropical cyclones. However, the critical relation between rainfall, soil-moisture conditions, and landslide movement has not been fully defined. The U.S. Geological Survey is currently monitoring hillslopes within the Atlantic Highlands area to better understand the hydrologic and meteorological conditions associated with shallow landslide initiation.