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Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems


The physical processes that facilitate long-distance translation of large-volume gravity slides remain poorly understood. To better understand these processes and the controls on runout distance, we conducted an outcrop and microstructural characterization of the Sevier gravity slide across the former land surface and summarize findings of four key sites. The Sevier gravity slide is the oldest of three mega-scale (>1,000 km2) collapse events of the Marysvale volcanic field (Utah, USA). Field observations of intense deformation, clastic dikes, pseudotachylyte, and consistency of kinematic indicators support the interpretation of rapid emplacement during a single event. Furthermore, clastic dikes and characteristics of the slip zone suggest emplacement involved mobilization and pressurized injection of basal material. Across the runout distance, we observe evidence for progressive slip delocalization along the slide base. This manifests as centimeter- to decimeter-thick cataclastic basal zones and abundant clastic dikes in the north and tens of meters thick basal zones characterized by widespread deformation of both slide blocks and underlying rock near the southern distal end of the gravity slide. Superimposed on this transition are variations in basal zone characteristics and slide geometry arising from interactions between slide blocks during dynamic wear and deposition processes and pre-existing topography of the former land surface. These observations are synthesized into a conceptual model in which the presence of highly pressurized fluids reduced the frictional resistance to sliding during the emplacement of the Sevier gravity slide, and basal zone evolution controlled the effectiveness of dynamic weakening mechanisms across the former land surface.

Funding Source

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation under Grants 2113155 to W. A. Griffith, 2113156 to T. Rivera, 2113157 to D. Hacker, 2113158 to D. Malone, and a GSA graduate student research grant to M. Braunagel.



This article was originally published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (2023), 24, 5;

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.