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Central Region Publications

Landslides mapped using LIDAR imagery, Seattle, Washington

By William H. Schulz

Open-File Report 2004–1396

Photograph from the Seattle Municipal Archives of residential distress in the Magnolia area of Seattle during 1954.
Version 1.0
Published 2004
Landslides pose a significant hazard in Seattle, Washington, where historical records of destructive landslide events date back to the late 1800s. Seattle landslides generally occur on hillslopes along Puget Sound and Lake Washington coastlines, hillslopes along drainages, and on steep, glacially formed ridges. Shallow flows, slides, falls, and topples, and deep-seated slides of earth and debris are common types of Seattle landslides. Inventories compiled of historical Seattle landslides highlight areas prone to landslide activity, but many of the inventories include only landslides that were reported to various government agencies, so they exclude unreported and prehistoric landslides. Geologic, coastal, and landslide-specific maps of the Seattle area also have been created. These maps primarily were constructed using aerial photographs and ground-based study, which is problematic in an area such as Seattle where dense vegetation substantially obscures hillslope morphology. Airborne LIDAR (light detection and ranging) surveys have recently been completed of the Seattle area and provide a clearer representation of the ground surface than is possible with aerial photographs because LIDAR penetrates vegetation.

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LIDAR-based map of Seattle landslides.

Text-only version of the Map PDF file.
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