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Remote sensing monitoring of a coastal-valley earthflow in northwestern Galicia, Spain

Horacio, Jesús, Muñoz-Narciso, Efrén, Trenhaile, Alan S., Pérez-Alberti, Augusto
Catena 2019 v.178 pp. 276-287
air, clay, climate change, coasts, digital elevation models, flight, geographic information systems, lidar, monitoring, photographs, rain, remote sensing, sea level, sediments, topography, unmanned aerial vehicles, Spain
Historical air photographs, LiDAR, and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) were used to record the movement, from 1956 to 2018, of a clay and clast earthflow in a coastal valley in northwestern Spain. Two procedures were employed. The first tracked changes, in a GIS environment, in the location of eight, easily identified objects on the surface of the deposit (large boulders, topographic lobes, and the foundations of an old hut). The second used DEMs of Difference (DoDs) based on Digital Elevation Models from a 2011 LiDAR flight and two UAV flights in 2016 and 2018 obtained by Structure from Motion-Photogrammetry techniques. While the first procedure provided estimates for earthflow movement over a 62-year period, the second produced more precise data for periods of up to 8-years. The first procedure indicated that the mean rate of movement was 0.48 m·yr−1, increasing from only 0.14 m·yr−1 from 1956 to 1983 to between 0.50 and 0.83 m·yr−1 from 1983 to 2018. Despite some temporal and spatial changes in direction, rates of surface movement were quite uniform on the deposit. The increase in earthflow movement after 1983 may be related to an increase in rainfall, although human activities associated with the removal of a wrecked ship from the nearshore may have been a contributing factor. The role of debuttressing due to the wave-induced removal of lateral support from the toe of the deposit is less clear. While there was no clear relationship between wave erosion and rates of movement, coastal retreat may have triggered changes in the direction and sediment flux in the toe of the deposit. This effect could have been tempered by negative feedback, however, whereby coastal erosion and increased flow activity were countered by the protection afforded by the accumulation of large, dislodged boulders on the beach. Because of this feedback, it is difficult to predict the impact of sea level rise and other elements of climate change along this coast.