Active landsliding and landscape denudation in response to transient tectonic uplift, Northern California.

Friday, 19 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Georgina L Bennett, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, United States, Joshua J Roering, Univ Oregon, Eugene, OR, United States, Scott R Miller, Univ of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, Eric Kirby, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States and David A Schmidt, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States
The northern Californian Coast ranges present a unique area to study landscape response to transient tectonic uplift. Studies have shown that an increase in uplift may be balanced by the rate of landsliding in settings of steady uplift. However, the landsliding response to transient tectonic uplift remains to be elucidated. The Californian Coast ranges are shaped by the northward migration of the Mendocino Triple Junction (MTJ), which geodynamic modeling suggests produces a transient double-humped uplift field. A major research question is whether we can detect a signature of this transient tectonic uplift in landslide activity and document how the channel network communicates this signal to hillslopes.

Using air photos and Worldview imagery, we manually mapped more than 2000 earthflows and debris slides in the Eel and surrounding catchments that span the ~400 km-long region. The velocities of active earthflows were estimated by visually tracking features between images spanning 1993 to 2013. We mapped channel steepness from 10m NED DEMs in Topotoolbox 2 and developed a new tool to automatically define knickpoints along the channel network.

Earthflows occur almost exclusively in a band of Franciscan mélange oriented along the MTJ transect whilst debris slides are more evenly distributed by lithology. Both earthflows and debris slides are clustered in the Eel catchment around the proposed uplift peaks and are largely absent outside of these zones. Within these areas of high landslide densities, we observe peaks in active earthflows adjacent to peaks in dormant earthflows to the south, suggesting that the signature of earthflow activity remains for a period of time once the uplift peak has passed. Landslide density, mean landslide area, and earthflow velocity all increase rapidly above threshold values of channel steepness and local relief. In the Eel catchment, where the zone of rapid uplift is commencing, landslides, particularly earth flows, are concentrated below an elevation band bracketed by knickpoints that we suggest reflects a wave of incision sweeping upstream from the outlet. We suggest that landslide activity upstream of this zone of adjusting topography may reflect a more complex response to the passage of the uplift peak that causes tilting and internal steepening of the headwaters.