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Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C





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Mass movements in northeastern Afghanistan include large-scale rockslides and complex slope failures, as well as failures in loess. The loess region in northeastern Afghanistan occurs in the Badakhshan and Takhar provinces and was likely created by dust blown to the east from the Karakum Desert and the alluvial plains of northern Afghanistan. This loessic dust was deposited against the Hindu Kush mountain range which rises up along the eastern half of Afghanistan as a result of transpressional tectonism. It overlies less permeable crystalline and sedimentary bedrocks such as Triassic granite, Proterozoic gneiss, and Miocene and Pliocene clastics in the area with the largest concentration of slope failures. Thirty-four loess slides and flows were mapped and analyzed using remote satellite imagery over digital elevation models on Google Earth™. This source enabled location, classification, and measurement of failures. Findings revealed that most failed slopes faced north, west, and northwest. This trend can be explained possibly as different moisture contents resulting from the primarily westerly wind direction, which may cause more precipitation to be deposited on west-facing slopes, and sun position during the hottest part of the day. Additionally, the easterly rising Hindu Kush range may cause more slope area to face west in the study region. Other contributing factors could be the very high seismicity of the area, which may cause rapid dry fluidized loess flows, and landscape modification by humans. Several loess slope failures appear to be generated by water concentration through irrigation ditches and possible rutted tire tracks, which can create tunneling between the loess and its less permeable bedrock. Causes and effects of loess failure in Afghanistan need to be investigated in more depth. Further study may lead to the adoption of more sustainable and safe farming practices and more informed housing locations, which may prevent loss of property, crop, and transport routes.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Elsevier in Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C on March 23, 2011, available online: