Friday, 15 February 2013

Avalanche in Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park

In mid-January 2013, a large landslide rumbled down the slopes of one of New Zealand’s tallest mountains. The massive slide of rock, ice, and snow on Mount Dixon occurred around 2:30 p.m. on January 21. The mountain lies within Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and is part of the range dubbed the “Southern Alps.” The slide is believed to be the largest in the area since 1991.

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured these two views of the area around Mt. Dixon and Mt. Cook/Aoraki. The top image was acquired on February 5, 2013, two weeks after the landslide. For perspective, the second image shows the same area roughly a year earlier, on March 13, 2012.

According to news reports and preliminary analysis, rock and ice debris fell as much as 450 to 500 meters down a near vertical face on the southern flank of Mount Dixon. Debris continued to slide down Hochstetter glacier into the Grand Plateau, spreading out over 3 kilometers and cascading down another 300 meters in elevation (800 meters total).

Landslide expert and Durham University professor David Petley wrote: “This is a very impressive landslide, with a large fall height and long runout distance, although as far as I can see there is nothing surprising about its behaviour.”

At the time of the avalanche, thirteen people were camped out in the Plateau Hut. Neil Wiltshire, a climber and occupant of the cabin, caught the slide on video. To view it, click here. For a collection of still images from the avalanche site, click here.
  1. References

  2. The Landslide Blog, by David Petley (2013, January 21) First reports of a large landslide on Mount Cook in New Zealand. Accessed February 14, 2013.
  3. The Landslide Blog, by David Petley (2013, January 23) An analysis, based on images and video, of the Mount Cook National Park landslide on Monday. Accessed February 14, 2013.
  4. The Landslide Blog, by David Petley (2013, February 12) The full video of the Mount Dixon rock avalanche from Aoraki Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand. Accessed February 14, 2013.
  5. The Press (2013, January 21) Massive Mt Cook rockfall. Accessed February 14, 2013.
  6. New Zealand Avalanche Center (2013, February 12) Aoraki/Mt Cook Avalanche Forecast. Accessed February 14, 2013.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team and the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.
EO-1 - ALI

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