Slow motion landslide devours road and power lines – no it's not melting permafrost

Remember the craters in Russian permafrost supposedly caused by global warming  (that turned out to be pingos) story? Well, there’s a new potential  “climate boogeyman” afoot in Russia.

earthflow-russiaWhen I first saw this video come across my Facebook page the first question that popped into my mind was: “I wonder how long it will be before some reporter tries to blame this on global warming”?

Here’s the video:

In fact, it turned out to be a mine waste collapse:

The Bolshaya Talda earthflow in Russia was a mine waste failure


46 thoughts on “Slow motion landslide devours road and power lines – no it's not melting permafrost

  1. Who ever took that video had to keep an eye out not only for the land slide itself, but also for those power lines, (assuming there was power in them).

  2. I am not distracting from the story about the source of the material, but the process is important.
    There is a process called SOLIFLUCTION in permafrost regions of downslope movement of large areas of surface material. It is caused by the thawing of surface material in summer in what is called the active layer. Because this saturated material is sitting on the frozen surface at the bottom of the active layer to top of the permafrost, it flows easily downslope. Solifluction can occur on slopes as low as 2 degrees gradient.
    It creates some remarkable surface forms throughout the permafrost region. There are also similar surface forms that are relict features of previous areas of permafrost and therefore a proxy indicator of climate change.
    There are many other unique surface forms throughout the polar regions that result from the annual freeze/thaw process.

    • I’m not so sure. It kind of appeared to be a settlement of overburden with the material in the spoils pile being pushed out by the collapsing load. That said, there is some interesting stuff gong on there, and a type of solifluction may be at work. Very cool video, showing both Russian quality asphalt and Russian coolness under fire (freeze?).

      • C in W,
        Not trying to speak for Dr. Ball, but moraines are glacial features created by soil and rocks deposited as glaciers melt and retreat. I would imaging they could be affected by solifluction under the right conditions, but don’t think they are created by solifluction.

      • Quite possible: There are several “fluidy” looking moraines on the eastern slope of the current (last formed)moraine of Wallowa Lake in NE Oregon, our local geologist has written several books about it. Makes sense considering volumes of melt-off during the last three (or more) ice advances in the Wallowas.

    • I’ll bet you a dollar to a hole in a donut it will flow at a less than 2% grade because gravity! All it needs is the right temperature, and time.

    • Solifluction does not need permafrost below to occur. It can happen down any slope where the surface layer is lubricated to move under gravity over a more solid substrate. Clay slopes are probably the most liable to flow in this situation. A good indicator is trees growing at an angle pointing down slope.

      • OK, solifluction sounds like the mechanism for those sliding rocks in the Nevada desert.
        Instead of gradient to drive them, It’s high winds.

      • Rob Roy:
        The sliding rocks are on the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, California. And yes, the wind moves them under certain conditions.

  3. Mine machinery uses a lot of electricity and that explains the high voltage power lines.

  4. Good chance it won’t be long and we will get one of those in the country where most of the rare earth metals are coming from. That should give the wind “generation” something to think about. But then it is not our back yard so why care and there is a more then even chance that not many news sites will actually mention that these metals are essential for the bird mincers. It will be reported as just a “tailing dam collapse in China”.

  5. Spoil heaps can be dangerous things. On 21 October 1966, a spoil heap above the Welsh town of Aberfan collapsed, burying a school and killing 116 children and 28 adults. Thank goodness this slow motion collapse seems to have happened far from habitation. Scary indeed!

  6. The by-far greatest environmental disasters have all occurred in socialist/communist countries, yet Christiana Figueres instructs us that communist China is the best model for a political system for fighting global warming/climate change. If you want to save the planet, leave it to private property owners to do it.

    • Those environmental disasters never occur near where the elite live. So they get the best of both worlds.
      They get to feel important by telling others what to do. Other people have to suffer all the negative consequences.

  7. A similar thing happened in northern BC but that one was caused by a tailing dam collapse. It caused ( as it should have) a huge uproar although the damage done was not nearly as terrible as the “greens” made it sound. My question, is Putin paying any attention?, My answer Nope!

  8. If man can stop the climate from changing then surely we can stop a slow motion landslide. Someone get in front of that thing and hold it back…or tax it until it stops.

  9. No. a moraine is a deposit of mixed material formed by moving ice. The material of the moraine is either bulldozed ahead of the ice or moves through the ice to appear at the snout. If the material of the moraine becomes permafrost, that is the groundwater is permenently frozen and an active layer develops, then solifluction can occur on the moraine.

    • Dr. Ball: Lateral moraines are also associated with glaciers. Primarily (IIRC) by material pushed aside by the glacier as it moves or more likely, in mountainous terranes, by material falling off the side of the glacier. I have seen these in the Big Horn Mtns of Wyoming.

  10. Amazing. And creepy.
    I would have been getting out of there fast, not hanging around to video the landslide. It’s moving slowly now but it could speed up at any time.

  11. The British National Coal Board made an excellent movie on how to build spoil banks, including models showing failures, following Aberfan. I used segments of it as a teaching aid in class for years. It helps explain this failure.

  12. Something like this happens on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in the spring sometimes. The Ice breaks up, the wind blows south and it piles up in 1-2-3 storey tall and moves inland like a slow bulldozer, to greater distances than you’d think. You want to build your cabin a couple of hundred meters back from the shore.

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