Encyclopedia of Planetary Landforms

2015 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Hargitai, Ákos Kereszturi

Rock Avalanche

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3134-3_321


A rapid mass movement of bedrock broken from a destabilized slope, resulting in the emplacement of a relatively thin sheet of fragmented rock (this latter point differentiates it from a  fall). Motion (flow) is dominated by solid grain forces, rather than influence of fluid ( flow).


A type of  mass wasting.

A type of  flow.



The distinction between slides and avalanches can be unclear and usage of these names in the literature can be ambiguous/inconsistent.

Material and Process

Rock avalanches are a common form of mass movement where the transported material is dry rock or (low-temperature) ice that is fragmented before or during slope failure. This definition excludes debris as source material, but includes any kind of rock, sedimentary, metamorphic, igneous, and also pyroclastic deposits (Hungr et al. 2001). Prevalent on steep slopes, rock avalanches are rapid and often involve the...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth Science and EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK