Development of homes, roads, and commercial buildings in northern Utah has grown significantly during the last several decades. Construction has expanded from the valley floor to higher elevations of benches, foothills, and other elevated regions of the Wasatch Mountain Front. Construction in the higher elevation areas are a concern due to potential for landslides, both new and reactivated. Landslides have been identified in this region and are dated as Pleistocene to historical in age. A possible landslide of about 0.5 km2 on the south slope of Traverse Mountain has been mapped by the Utah Geological Survey in 2005. Its surface exhibits hummocky topography and is comprised of Oligocene-age volcanic ash, block and ash flow tuffs, and andesite lava. Landslides along the Wasatch Mountain Front are complex features usually characterized by dense vegetation and poor outcrop and require a combination geological and geophysical methods to study their thickness, slope, lateral extent, and style of emplacement. Our study incorporates trenching, boreholes, and LiDAR aerial imagery. Unique to the study of landslides is our use of seismic reflection with a vibroseis source over the mapped landslide deposit. The seismic parameters of source, station spacing, and processing method provide a coherent, albeit low-resolution, image of the upper 500 m of the subsurface beneath the landslide. A major reflector boundary in our seismic profiles has an apparent dip of 4° to the south, approximately parallel with the surface topography. Its elevation and seismic character are indicative of a contact between the Oligocene-age volcanic rocks on top of a portion of the Pennsylvanian-age Bingham Mine Formation, a mixed carbonate and siliciclastic sequence. The reflector defines an asymmetric graben-like structure bounded by a north-northwest-trending normal fault system. Analysis of trenches, boreholes and local geology reveals a faulted, chaotic body of block and ash flow tuffs, surrounded by andesite lavas. Using LiDAR and surface geological reconnaissance, a possible toe or margin of a landslide has been interpreted in the north-west portion of the study area. The combination weakened block and ash flow tuffs and abundant clay production from this unit contribute to the likelihood of a coalescence of landslides in this mapped landslide area. The integration of LiDAR, trenching, boreholes and reflection seismology provides the range and resolution of data needed to assess the complex geology of landslides.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


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Traverse Mountains, Utah, landslides, geophysics, Tertiary, Paleogene, Eocene, Oligocene, volcanic, andesite, block and ash flow tuff, andesite, 2D seismic, reflection seismology, vibroseis, boreholes, trench, LiDAR



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