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New Mexico Earth Matters — Back-issues


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Dangers of steep slopes: Landslides, rockfalls, and debris flows in New Mexico
Dan Koning and Colin T. Cikoski

Slope is an important feature of Earth’s surface. It is fundamental to the hilly to mountainous terrain of much of New Mexico, and is a defining feature of many of our notable landmarks, such as Shiprock, the Sandia Mountains, and Sierra Blanca. Slope is an essential consideration in most engineering projects, including construction of roads and buildings.

People have an inherent sense that steeper slopes are more dangerous. This intuition is well founded, as many geologic hazards are associated with steep slopes— including landslides, rockfalls, and debris flows. There are enormous benefits to society from identifying areas susceptible to slope-related hazards, so that houses and roads are not built in these areas, or so that appropriate protective measures are taken.