I investigated active deep-seated gravitational slope deformation (DSGSD) near the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and Richardson Highway in the east-central Alaska Range, Alaska, USA. I documented the presence, spatial extent, and rates of DSGSD using field-geology methods and optical, SAR, and D-InSAR remote-sensing images. I also documented and mapped many of the morphological, geological, and structural characteristics of slopes undergoing DSGSD, and constructed conceptual numerical models to better understand potential deformation mechanisms. Results confirm that many large DSGSD slopes in the study area are actively deforming. Deformation rates range from less than a millimetre per month to more than ten centimetres per month, and are spatially and temporally varient within each slope. Deforming slopes are characterized by differential movement of kilometre-scale rock blocks. Recent climatic changes and strong seismic shaking, especially during the recent 2002 Denali Fault earthquake, have exacerbated ongoing deformation. Study-area DSGSDs should be considered capable of generating long-runout rock avalanches that could directly sever the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and Richardson Highway, or that could dam up valleys and lead to the buildup and catastrophic failure of landslide-dammed lakes capable of impacting said infrastructure.
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Thesis advisor: Clague, John
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