GPS and Satellite InSAR Observations of Landslide Activity at the Sinking Canyon in South Central Idaho

Monday, 15 December 2014
Mohamed H Aly, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, United States, Nancy F Glenn, Boise State Univ, Boise, ID, United States and Glenn D Thackray, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID, United States
Multiple rotational, transitional, and lateral spread landslides have occurred in south central Idaho where basalt lava flows overly unconsolidated lake and fluvial sediments at the Sinking Canyon. The canyon is about 0.1 km deep and 0.25-1 km wide along a 4-km segment of the Salmon Falls Creek (SFC). Local topography and hydrological conditions are most likely the major triggering factors that have initiated landslides by increasing the gravitational stresses and weakening the canyon wall materials. Landslide activity has created natural dams of SFC, which in turn has resulted in forming large lakes with a potential flooding hazard to life and property downstream. In this study, we use campaign Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements of 2003-2004 and Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometric (InSAR) data acquired during 1992-2007 by the European radar satellites (ERS-1 and ERS-2) to identify, monitor, and analyze recent landslide activity at SFC. Results show that three main landslides have been active during the period of observation: the Salmon Falls landslide (SFL) that has been first reported in 1999, the historical 1937 landslide, and a third unnamed landslide to the north of the 1937 slide. InSAR measurements indicate that the SFL has been active during the period of our earliest interferogram (1992-1993) whereas the slide head has detached and has moved away from the eastern canyon wall about 3 cm. Over the years, the SFL body and toe have been pushed westward repetitively at rates of about 3-7 cm/yr. The toe is confined by the western canyon wall and thus is pushed upward in some years causing slight uplift (2-3 cm). Our field observations reveal many transverse and radial cracks associated with the deformation pattern caused by recurring motions. The historic 1937 slide is the largest mass wasting and is the least active landslide in the study area. The unnamed slide shows episodic activity with varying rates (0-4 cm/yr) of line-of-sight motions. This geodetic study allows identifying unstable slopes and improves understanding of how different landslide parts behave relative to each other to create advanced kinematic models. Understanding landslide dynamics is crucial for mitigating potential hazards and avoiding costly consequences.