Mass Movement

Sentinel-1 radar coverage from before and after the 1 April 2017 mudslide in Mocoa, Colombia. Triggered by heavy rain, the landslide caused greatest movement (red) on top of a mountain. It then pushed mud down across the city of Mocoa (green) and crossed the nearby river. The Sentinel-1-derived data product (from scans on 20 March and 1 April) has been overlaid onto a Sentinel-1 radar image. Image: Modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by I. Parcharidis, Harokopio University of Athens.


Mass movements can be defined as as any type of downslope movement of earth materials, such as sediment, soil and rock material. Mass movements are processes of erosion, transport and accumulation of material that occur on both gentle and steep slopes mainly owing to gravitational forces (IRDR Glossary).

These movements are generally associated with other disasters such as earthquakes, floods, thunderstorms and heavy rainstorm. They can be also associated with manmade hazards like construction roads, buildings, structures, infrastructure facilities.


Facts and figures

Mass movements occur based on several factors and causes differ depending on different regions. Mass movements are affected by the slope gradient, climate, rock type and structure, physical setting and geological and geomorphological outlines (Advances in Geosciences).

Mass-wasting events come in many shapes, sizes and speeds. Typically, the steeper the angle of a slope, the faster will be the down-slope movement of rock and sediment.  Also, water can play a significant role in mass wasting, sometimes acting as the key component to a mass-wasting event, or serving as a lubricant within a mass of sediment and rock, enabling it to travel faster and further than it would otherwise.


One type of mass wasting can evolve into another type of mass wasting as the body of sediment/rock moves down a slope. This can make it difficult to classify a single event as being one type of mass wasting or another (Department of Geological Sciences, California State University).

A simple classification of the different types of mass wasting can be:

  • Falls  (rock fall and rock avalanche)        
  • Slides  (rock slide, landslide and slump)      
  • Flows  (rock avalanche, debris flow, earth flow and creep).

Related content on the Knowledge Portal

SAM Satellite

Gaofen-2 is a follow-on mission of the Gaofen-1technology demonstration mission, a series of high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites of CNSA (China National Space Administration), Beijing, China. GF-2 is part of the CHEOS (China High Resolution Earth Observation System) family.
The mission goal of GF-2 to implement sub-meter level, high geographical accuracy Earth surface imaging, promoting application of CHEOS satellites and... read more

Launch date:

SPOT-7 is a high-resolution wide-swath imaging spacecraft built and operated by Airbus Defence and Space taking over the majority of Spot Image after the government support of the SPOT program was terminated. SPOT-6 – launched in 2012 – and SPOT-7 are identical spacecraft, based on the AstroSat-250 satellite bus and use the NAOMI (New AstroSat Optical Modular Instrument)... read more

Launch date:

Launched in June 2014 with an expected life-time of more than 7 years, Deimos-2 is an agile, high resolution satellite that became the only European fully-private satellite capable of providing sub-metric multispectral imagery. From a 620-km ascending sun-sync orbit, it has a 12/24-km swath (depending on the imaging mode), stereo-par capability and ±45º off-... read more

Launch date:

ALOS-2 (Advanced Land Observation Satellite 2) is the follow-on JAXA L-SAR satellite mission of ALOS (Daichi) approved by the Japanese government in late 2008. The overall objective is to provide data continuity to be used for cartography... read more

Launch date:

Sentinel-1 is a two satellite constellation with the prime objectives of land and ocean monitoring. The goal of the mission is to provide C-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data continuity following the retirement of ERS-2 and the end of the Envisat mission.
To accomplish this the satellites carry a C-SAR... read more

Launch date:

KOMPSAT-5 is an earth observation satellite equipped with Korea's first all-weather SAR.
The SAR mounted on KOMPSAT-5 emits microwaves to an object on the ground and synthesizes the reflected signal to produce an image. It enables ground observation even during nighttime and poor weather conditions.
As the SAR image can supplement the optical camera, which can record only the... read more

Launch date:

Resurs-P1 is a Russian Earth observation satellite designed and developed at TsSKB Progress (Progress State Research and Production Space Center) in Samara, Russia. Roskosmos is funding the project (owner and operator of the spacecraft under the Russian Federal Space Program), the commercial data distributor is Sovzond JSC of Moscow. The spacecraft is operated by NTs OMZ (Research Center for Operational Earth... read more

Launch date:

Gaofen-1 (gao fen = high resolution) is the first of a series of high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites of CNSA (China National Space Administration), Beijing, China. The civilian HDEOS (High-Definition Earth Observation Satellite) program was proposed in 2006, it received government... read more

Launch date:

Landsat 8 launched on February 11, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on an Atlas-V 401 rocket, with the extended payload fairing
 (EPF) from United Launch Alliance, LLC. The Landsat 8 satellite payload consists of two science instruments—the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared... read more

Launch date:

Launched in December 2011, Pleiades is a constellation of two very-high-resolution satellites capable of acquiring imagery of any point on the globe in under 24 hours for civil and military users.
Pleiades has been observing and mapping Earth’s surface at a resolution of just 70 cm every day since December 2011. Comprising the Pleiades 1A and Pleiades 1B satellites, this space imaging system complements the capabilities of the SPOT satellites, which have a wider field of view than Pleiades but lower spatial resolution. What’s more... read more

Launch date:


Hazard group

Terms in the same hazard group

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.