Slope Failure in a Period of Increased Landslide Activity: Sennwald Rock Avalanche, Switzerland

Selçuk Aksay*, Susan Ivy-Ochs, Kristina Hippe, Lorenz Grämiger, Christof Vockenhuber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The Säntis nappe is a complex fold-and-thrust structure in eastern Switzerland, consisting of numerous tectonic discontinuities and a range of hillslopes prone to landsliding and large slope failures that modify the topography irreversibly. A slope failure, namely the Sennwald rock avalanche, occurred in the southeast wall of this fold-and-thrust structure due to the rock failure of Lower Cretaceous Helvetic limestones along the Rhine River valley. In this research, this palaeolandslide is examined in a multidisciplinary approach for the first time with detection and mapping of avalanche deposits, dynamic run-out modelling and cosmogenic nuclide dating. During the rock failure, the avalanche deposits were transported down the hillslope in a spreading-deck fashion, roughly preserving the original stratigraphic sequence. The distribution of landslide deposits and surface exposure age of the rock failure support the hypothesis that the landslide was a single catastrophic event. The 36Cl surface exposure age of avalanche deposits indicates an age of 4.3 ± 0.5 ka. This time coincides with a notably wet climate period, noted as a conditioning factor for landslides across the Alps in the mid-Holocene. The contemporaneity of our event at its location in the Eastern Alps provide additional support for the contention of increased regional seismic activity in mid-Holocene.
Original languageEnglish
Article number331
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2021


  • Landslide
  • Geology
  • Tectonics
  • Surface Exposure Dating
  • Cosmogenic Nuclide Dating


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