Characterizing Giant Landslides

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Science  22 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6126, pp. 1395-1396
DOI: 10.1126/science.1236165

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In the late 19th century, the director of the Geological Survey of Switzerland, Albert Heim, described the massive landslide that in 1881 buried the Swiss town of Elm, with the loss of 115 people (1). Heim proposed that this landslide represented a hitherto unknown type of very large, fast mass movement. The deposits from such landslides—now generally called rock avalanches—have been found in all high mountain areas around the world. On page 1416 of this issue, Ekström and Stark (2) introduce a technique for the detection and characterization of rock avalanches that uses the global seismic monitoring network.