Rock Collapse on Alaskan Peak Triggers Massive Landslide

By Tom Yulsman | February 25, 2014 12:20 pm
Mt. La Perouse Landslide

Part of Mt. La Perouse in Alaska collapsed last Sunday, creating the massive landslide seen in this photograph shot from a helicopter by Drake Olsen. (Photograph: Used with permission from Drake Olson,

A near vertical wall on Alaska’s 10,728-foot Mt. La Perouse collapsed on Feb. 16, sending 68 million metric tons of material thundering downhill.

This would make it the largest known landslide on Earth since 2010, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

The photo above, shot from a ski plane  by Drake Olson, shows what it looks like. The slide of rock and snow is more than 40 feet thick and runs out about 4 and a half miles.

Mt. La Perouse landslide

The Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 acquired this image on February 23, 2014.  (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

In the image above, captured by the Landsat 8 satellite on Feb. 23, the avalanche debris appears light brown compared to the snow-covered surroundings. (Make sure to click the image to expand it.)

For a closer view, as well as before-and-after views, check out NASA’s Earth Observatory post on the slide here.

Columbia University seismologist Colin Stark first picked up signs of the slide, which occurred in a remote area of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, in data from a global earthquake monitoring network.

Broadly speaking, Stark studies what he calls the “physics of geomorphology” — including landslide processes. I’m hoping to interview him some time today or over the weekend, so make sure to check back for an update.



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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