An earthflow (earth flow) is a downslope viscous flow of fine-grained materials that have been saturated with water, and moves under the pull of gravity. They are an intermediate type of mass wasting that is between downhill creep and mudflow. The types of materials that are susceptible to earthflows are clay, fine sand and silt, and fine-grained pyroclastic material.
When the ground materials become saturated with enough water, they will start flowing. Its speed can range from being barely noticeable to rapid movement. The velocity of the flow is dictated by water content: the higher the water content is, the higher the velocity will be. Because of the dependency on water content for the velocity of the flow, it can take minutes or years for the materials to move down the slope.
An earthflow may affect as few as several square meters or up to several hectares.
- Easterbrook, D: “Surface Processes and Landforms”, page 78-79. Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1999
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