Nature and timing of large landslides in the Himalaya and Transhimalaya of northern India

Jason M. Dortch, Lewis A. Owen, William C. Haneberg, Marc W. Caffee, Craig Dietsch, Ulrich Kamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


Four large landslides, each with a debris volume >106 m3, in the Himalaya and Transhimalaya of northern India were examined, mapped, and dated using 10Be terrestrial cosmogenic radionuclide surface exposure dating. The landslides date to 7.7±1.0 ka (Darcha), 7.9±0.8 ka (Patseo), 6.6±0.4 ka (Kelang Serai), and 8.5±0.5 ka (Chilam). Comparison of slip surface dips and physically reasonable angles of internal friction suggests that the landslides may have been triggered by increased pore water pressure, seismic shaking, or a combination of these two processes. However, the steepness of discontinuities in the Darcha rock-slope, suggests that it was more likely to have started as a consequence of gravitationally-induced buckling of planar slabs. Deglaciation of the region occurred more than 2000 years before the Darcha, Patseo, and Kelang Serai landslides; it is unlikely that glacial debuttressing was responsible for triggering the landslides. The four landslides, their causes, potential triggers and mechanisms, and their ages are compared to 12 previously dated large landslides in the region. Fourteen of the 16 dated landslides occurred during periods of intensified monsoons. Seismic shaking, however, cannot be ruled out as a mechanism for landslide initiation, because the Himalaya has experienced great earthquakes on centennial to millennial timescales. The average Holocene landscape lowering due to large landslides for the Lahul region, which contains the Darcha, Patseo, and Kelang Serai landslides, is ∼0.12 mm/yr. Previously published large-landslide landscape-lowering rates for the Himalaya differ significantly. Furthermore, regional glacial and fluvial denudation rates for the Himalaya are more than an order of magnitude greater. This difference highlights the lack of large-landslide data, lack of chronology, problems associated with single catchment/large landslide-based calculations, and the need for regional landscape-lowering determinations over a standardized time period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1037-1054
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Jun 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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