The landslide response of alpine basins to post-Little Ice Age glacial thinning and retreat in southwestern British Columbia
The role of post-Little Ice Age (LIA) Neoglacial retreat on landslide activity is investigated in 19 alpine basins along the upper Lillooet River Valley, British Columbia. We examine how Neoglacial scouring and glacial recession have modified hillslope form and slope stability, and construct a decision-making flowchart to identify landslide hazards associated with glacial retreat. This work is based on field mapping, GIS analysis, statistical associations between landslides and terrain attributes, and a comparison between Neoglaciated and non-Neoglaciated terrain within each basin. The bedrock landslide response to glacial retreat varies appreciably according to lithology and the extent of glacial scour below the LIA trimline. Valleys carved in weak Quaternary volcanics show significant erosional oversteepening and contain deep-seated slope movement features, active rock fall, rock slides, and rock avalanches near glacial trimlines. Basins in stronger granitic rock rarely show increased bedrock instability resulting from post-LIA retreat, except for shallow-seated rock slides along some trimlines and failures on previously unstable slopes. In surficial materials, landslides associated with post-LIA retreat originate in till or colluvium, as debris slides or debris avalanches, and are concentrated along lateral moraines or glacial trimlines. Significant spatial association was also observed between recent catastrophic failures, gravitational slope deformation, and slopes that were oversteepened then debuttressed by glacial erosion. Eight out of nine catastrophic rock slope failures occurred just above glacial trimlines and all occurred in areas with a previous history of deep-seated gravitational slope movement, implying that this type of deformation is a precursor to catastrophic detachment.