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Permafrost extension modeling in rock slope since the Last Glacial Maximum: application to the large Séchilienne landslide (French Alps).

Abstract : Recent dating performed on large landslides in the Alps reveal that the initiation of instability did not immediately follow deglaciation but occurred several thousand years after ice down-wastage in the valleys. This result indicates that debuttressing is not the immediate cause of landslide initiation. The period of slope destabilization appears to coincide with the wetter and warmer Holocene Climatic Optimum, indicating a climatic cause of landslide triggering, although the role of seismic activity cannot be ruled out. A phenomenon which may partly explain the delay between valley deglaciation and gravitational instability is the temporal persistence of thick permafrost layers developed in the Alps since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). This hypothesis was tested through 2D thermal numerical modeling of the large Séchilienne landslide (Romanche valley, French Alps) using plausible input parameter values. Simulation results suggest that permafrost vanished in the Séchilienne slope at 10 to 11 ka, 3,000 to 4,000 years following the total ice down-wastage of the Romanche valley at 14.3 ka. Permafrost persistence could have contributed to the failure delay by temporally strengthening the slope. Numerical simulations also show that the permafrost depth expansion approximately fits the thickness of ground affected by gravitational destabilization, as deduced from geophysical investigations. These results further suggest that permafrost development, associated with an ice segregation mechanism, damaged the rock slope and influenced the resulting landslide geometry.
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Submitted on : Monday, August 26, 2013 - 2:47:02 PM
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Vincent Lebrouc, Stéphane Schwartz, Laurent Baillet, Denis Jongmans, Jean-François Gamond. Permafrost extension modeling in rock slope since the Last Glacial Maximum: application to the large Séchilienne landslide (French Alps).. Geomorphology, Elsevier, 2012, pp.GEOMOR-04381. ⟨10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.06001⟩. ⟨insu-00854197⟩

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