Monthly Archives: October 2015

Our crumbling mountains: A lesser-known impact of climate change

Dr Sam McColl, Massey University

RSNZ Manawatu Branch October 2015 meeting – joint with the Manawatu Branch of the New Zealand Geographical Society

7.30 pm Tuesday, 20 October, Te Manawa – Art Gallery, 326 Main Street, Palmerston North

 Climate change can promote landslides. Nowhere is this more evident than in deglaciated landscapes, where the retreat of glaciers, the warming of frozen rock, and enhanced post-glacial seismicity are thought to explain the widespread landslide activity found in these landscapes. In New Zealand’s deglaciated terrain, thousands of catastrophic landslides, including some of the largest on Earth, are evident in geological records and are partly explained by climate change. Many of these landslides occurred in the geologically-recent past, and historical records show an increasing frequency of alpine landslides. This geologically-recent and historical landslide activity may be an indicator of further landslides to come, especially given the current warming climate. Developing predictions of landslide activity is worthwhile for avoiding and planning for the considerable impact that landslides can have on life, infrastructure, and landscapes. Yet, reliable predictions are not yet possible because much uncertainty remains on the climate, and non-climate, drivers of landslides in glaciated landscapes, and on the likelihood of catastrophic landslides in the future. In this talk, I will draw on my own and other research to describe the current knowledge on, and approaches for unravelling, how formerly-glaciated hill-slopes have, and continue to, respond to climate-related changes over timescales ranging from the last glacial period to the modern day.

All warmly welcome