Reading: Falls

Green hills with white streaks

Figure 1. The white areas on green hillsides mark scars from numerous mudflows.

Falls are abrupt movements of masses of geologic materials, such as rocks and boulders, that become detached from steep slopes or cliffs. Separation occurs along discontinuities such as fractures, joints, and bedding planes, and movement occurs by free-fall, bouncing, and rolling. Falls are strongly influenced by gravity, mechanical weathering, and the presence of interstitial water.

Lahars and Mudflow

Added water creates natural hazards produced by gravity (figure 1). On hillsides with soils rich in clay, little rain, and not much vegetation to hold the soil in place, a time of high precipitation will create a mudflow. Mudflows follow river channels, washing out bridges, trees, and homes that are in their path.

A lahar is mudflow that flows down a composite volcano (figure 2). Ash mixes with snow and ice melted by the eruption to produce hot, fast-moving flows. The lahar caused by the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz in Columbia in 1985 killed more than 23,000 people.

An erupted volcano with a lava stream flowing down

Figure 2. A lahar is a mudflow that forms from volcanic ash and debris.


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