Implications of longitudinal ridges for the mechanics of ice-free long runout landslides

Giulia Magnarini, Thomas M. Mitchell, Liran Goren, Peter M. Grindrod, John Browning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The emplacement mechanisms of long runout landslides across the Solar System and the formation mechanisms of longitudinal ridges associated with their deposits remain subjects of debate. The similarity of longitudinal ridges in martian long runout landslides and terrestrial landslides emplaced on ice suggests that an icy surface could explain both the reduction of friction associated with the deposition of long runout landslides and the development of longitudinal ridges. However, laboratory experiments on rapid granular flows show that ice is not a necessary requirement for the development of longitudinal ridges, which instead may form from convective cells within high-speed flows. These experiments have shown that the wavelength (S) of the ridges is 2-3 times the thickness (T) of the flow, which has also been demonstrated at field scale on a tens-of-kilometre martian long runout landslide. Here, we present the case study of the 4-km-long, ice-free El Magnifico landslide in Northern Chile which exhibits clear longitudinal ridges, and show for the first time on a terrestrial landslide that the S/T ratio is in agreement with the scaling relationship found for both laboratory rapid granular flows and a previously measured martian long runout landslide. Several outcrops within the landslide allow us to study internal sections of the landslide deposit and their relationship with the longitudinal ridges in order to shed light on the emplacement mechanism. Our observations include interactions without chaotic mixing between different lithologies and the presence of meters-sized blocks that exhibit preserved original bedding discontinuities. We associate these observations with fluctuations in stress, as they are qualitatively similar to numerically modelled rapid granular slides, which were suggested, to some degree, to be associated with acoustic fluidization. Our results suggest that 1) the mechanism responsible for the formation of longitudinal ridges is scale- and environment-independent; 2) while the internal structures observed do not necessarily support a mechanism of convective-style motion, their interpretation could also point to a mechanism of internal deformation of the sliding mass derived from pattern-forming vibrations. Our novel observations and analysis provide important insights for the interpretation of similar features on Earth and Mars and for discerning the underlying mechanisms responsible for the emplacement of long run out landslides.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117177
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2021


  • deposit thickness
  • emplacement mechanism
  • long runout landslide
  • longitudinal ridges
  • scaling relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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