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Obermiller, K.E., 2011

Investigation of a landslide in discontinuous permafrost near Chitina, Alaska

Bibliographic Reference

Obermiller, K.E., 2011, Investigation of a landslide in discontinuous permafrost near Chitina, Alaska: University of Alaska Fairbanks, M.S. thesis, ix, 60 p., illust., maps.


Few studies have investigated landslides in frozen ground. As Alaska's population grows and climate warms, we can expect an increase in landslide frequency. This thesis presents mapping and subsurface analysis of a slide occurring in discontinuous permafrost near Chitina, Alaska. The active slide intersects the McCarthy Road and occurs in an underlying clayey glaciolacustrine diamicton deposit in an area previously used as a dump. The multifaceted investigation included landslide feature mapping, seismic surveys, tree-ring sampling, and a slope stability analysis to back-calculate residual soil strength properties. Mapping indicated that the overall landslide extent is larger than the active slide area. Analysis of tree rings suggested movement occurred as at least two events. Seismic surveys produced good correlation with drilling data and effective subsurface imaging. Boring logs indicated that the permafrost table was at greater depth inside the active slide area than immediately adjacent along the roadway. These observations indicate that the failure mechanism for the active portion of the slide is different than that of the overall slide area. Back-calculation of the clay properties indicates a residual effective friction angle of 22.1 Permafrost degradation from the thermal effects of the dump may contribute to ongoing movement of the active slide area.

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