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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Mud Creek Slide

Mud Creek Slide

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, June 15, 2017/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, sustainability, environment

                    Three Panel Satellite Imagery Triptych, April-May, 2017 (credit: USGS, NASA, ESA)

California Highway 1 runs along some of the most beautiful stretches of coastal landscape anywhere. It also crosses some of the geologically most unstable zones at the edge of North America as well. A series of landslides occurred recently including a massive slip near Mud Creek, south of Big Sur.

A time-line triptych was developed using from satellite images taken between April and May 2017 that shows just how unstable the landscape can be. On May 20th, a section of mountainside collapsed into the Pacific Ocean depositing more than a million tons of dirt and rock onto the highway which rose to a height of over 40 feet. The landslide was likely triggered by copious rains that hit California earlier in the year during a series atmospheric 'rivers of rain'. The region's general geomorphology didn't help either.

      

                    Mud Creek Slide May 20, 2017, Big Sur, California (credit: US Geological Survey)

The USGS's Landsat-8 satellite acquired two images of the Mud Creek coastline on April 20 and May 22, 2017 while a third image was acquired by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 Copernicus satellite. According to engineering estimates made by CalTrans, the landslide buried between 1/3-1/2 of a mile of the highway in debris and further landslides could still happen. Highway 1 will be closed for an indefinite period of time. A small aircraft or drone took a closer view of the slide's extent on May 21st. California's coast has now been extended ~250 feet further into the Pacific Ocean.

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