Slide was not started by spring thaw and rain alone-

The slide (or maybe best called a “slump”) above the northwest part of Jackson, Wyoming was not just the product of a wet spring, the spring thaw, and a steep slope known to have been unstable.

A lengthy story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide tells how the slide has repeatedly had its toe (bottom) disturbed by grading and construction.  Water from a  leak at a house on the slide also likely contributed.  Any literature on geologic hazards says “don’t disturb the toe of a slide” (at least not without removing much of the slide’s crown). Don’t lubricate the slide.

Jackson, Wyoming (unlike Oso, Washington) has land use planning. However, the town council repeatedly allowed (voted) the toe of the slide to be disturbed. Now it is going to cost the local taxpayers a lot of money and damage both private and public property. Jackson might have planning, but the properties as building spaces have come to be worth huge amounts of money. This might be the ultimate explanation for the slide.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

11 Responses to Jackson Hole: Geology 101. How to disturb a slumbering landslide

  1. avatar Alma Hasse says:

    Ralph, not especially related to wildlife, but thought you should see this:

    http://www.eutimes.net/2014/04/volcanic-red-alert-issued-for-idaho-by-emercom-scientists/

    This is particularly troubling to me:

    Most perplexing, this report says, are that these fracking operations in the ISB volcanic zone are being allowed to continue by the Obama regime in spite of their own experts findings and recommendations, especially from this past weeks report from their Midwestern region which, in part, states:

    “Ohio geologists have found a probable connection between fracking and a sudden burst of mild earthquakes last month in a region that had never experienced a temblor until recently, according to a state report.

    The quake report, which coincided with the state’s announcement of some of the nation’s strictest limits on fracking near faults, marked the strongest link to date between nerve-rattling shakes and hydraulic fracturing — the process of firing water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to eject oil and natural gas out of ancient rock.

    Last month, Ohio indefinitely shut down Hilcorp Energy’s fracking operation near the Pennsylvania border after five earthquakes, including one magnitude-3 temblor that awoke many Ohioans from their sleep.”

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Alma Hasse,

      I don’t think there is any doubt now that fracking sometimes causes earthquakes.

      There has been a swarm of moderate earthquakes in central Idaho near Challis the last couple weeks, and there is a slight possibility of a major quake like the Mount Borah quake of 1983. However, the link you gave looks to me like a one of those marginal web sites promoting “off-label” ;-) geology.

      A volcanic eruption at Mount Borah? That mountain range (Lost River Range) is made out of limestone and dolomite. Borah is no volcano.

      • avatar Larry Zuckerman says:

        there have also been swarms of human-caused quakes in Oklahoma from fracking and deep-well injection of drilling waste water, often brine.

        http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/12/earthquake-oklahoma/7649531/

        http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/us/ohio-geologists-link-earthquakes-to-gas-drilling.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=1

        • The Challis/Salmon area is covered with thousands of feet of old volcanic ash. The twin peaks and others up Morgan Creek north of Challis have distinct volcanic cones. I have hiked up on top about four of them. The earthquakes seem to be associated with the old volcanic area, not the Mount Borah fault. Seismic monitors are being rushed to the area and local schools are conducting earthquake drills.

          • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

            Larry Thorngren,

            The quakes are deep inside the Challis Volcanics.

            The Challis Volcanics cover a big area. I love to take photos of them http://www.panoramio.com/photo/5337490. I don’t know if your were suggesting an eruption from them, but someone probably will. They are very old with the last eruption 39-million years ago. Did I read properly that this the event left behind some faults? Not sure I understood the details of what I found in my web search on it.

            Calderas formed at Van Horne Peak and the Twin Peaks, but these mountains are not volcano cones, but remnants of the ancient calderas.

            I think these places are perhaps prettier than deeper back in the Frank Church Wilderness.

        • avatar Scott Gifford says:

          Theres alot of hype about oil fracking in the media that gets misconstrued. First off when drilling wells they are incredibly deep and under immense pressure, around 10,000 psi and 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Gary Chapman, head geophysicist at chevron said that The typical energy release from hydraulic fracking is equivalent to a gallon of milk falling off the kitchen counter. also “hydraulic fracturing almost never causes true earthquakes”( Cliff Frohlich, seismologist from the University of Texas)

          • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

            Scott Gifford,

            It isn’t the typical well that counts. It is those that seem to be associated with earthquakes. I don’t think the potential problem with hydraulic fracking has anything to do with typical energy release either. The problem is lubrication of a fault or faults that are otherwise stuck due to friction.

          • avatar Yvette says:

            What is a true earthquake?

  2. avatar Red Clover says:

    It does look dry as an old bone.

    I don’t think they’re mentioning quakes, wouldn’t want the sales of stuffed bears and keychains to slow down.

  3. avatar snail darter says:

    I think fracking should be required under the home of all oil Company Executives

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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