Articles | Volume 3, issue 6
31 Dec 2003
31 Dec 2003

Landslides, sandpiles, and self-organized criticality

S. Hergarten

Abstract. Power-law distributions of landslides and rockfalls observed under various conditions suggest a relationship of mass movements to self-organized criticality (SOC). The exponents of the distributions show a considerable variability, but neither a unique correlation to the geological or climatic situation nor to the triggering mechanism has been found. Comparing the observed size distributions with models of SOC may help to understand the origin of the variation in the exponent and finally help to distinguish the governing components in long-term landslide dynamics. However, the three most widespread SOC models either overestimate the number of large events drastically or cannot be consistently related to the physics of mass movements. Introducing the process of time-dependent weakening on a long time scale brings the results closer to the observed statistics, so that time-dependent weakening may play a major part in the long-term dynamics of mass movements.