Seismically-induced mass movements and volumetric fluxes resulting from the 2010 Mw=7.2 earthquake in the Sierra Cucapah, Mexico

John Barlow, Ivana Barisin, Nick Rosser, David Petley, Alexander Densmore, Tim Wright

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36 Citations (Scopus)


The observation that sediment flux from mountain ranges struck by high magnitude earthquakes can be strongly influenced by coseismic mass movements brings into question the nature of coseismic deformation as a net contributor to mountain building. To better constrain the role of high-magnitude earthquakes in orogenesis, high-resolution data of earthquake induced mass wasting is required for areas of differing tectonic, morphological, and climatic settings. Here we compare the erosional flux to the tectonic flux associated with the 2010 Mw = 7.2 Sierra El Mayor earthquake in Mexico and examine the landslide patterning of coseismic mass movements associated with this event. The ruptured fault system has a significant strike-slip component with subsidence along the eastern flank and uplift on the western flank of the range. Peak ground acceleration was highest along the steepest sections of the range such that the frequency of landslide occurrence was strongly correlated to slope gradient. Both vertical and horizontal coseismic displacement demonstrated a strong control over landslide initiation. This result suggests that strike-slip systems experience very different landslide patterning to thrust faults during earthquakes. Based on interferometric analysis of synthetic aperture radar images, the earthquake resulted in a total uplifted volume of 41.6 × 106 m3 and a loss of 95.2 × 106 m3 due to subsidence. This suggests a net tectonic volumetric flux of − 53.6 × 106 m3. Sediment mobilisation by coseismic landslides is estimated at − 2.7 × 106 m3 derived from a manually mapped inventory using SPOT 5 multispectral imagery. Thus, the net volume loss through coseismic subsidence of the mountain range generated a strongly negative mass flux, which was only marginally enhanced by mass wasting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-145
Number of pages8
Early online date24 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • Earthquakes
  • Landslides
  • Volumetric flux
  • Orogenesis

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