Earth witnessed one of its largest landslides over 21 million years ago in Utah. In a recent discovery the scientists have spotted evidences which indicate that the Markagunt gravity slide, which occurred million years ago causing devastation in the southern Utah in just a few minutes, is one of the largest. The Markagunt slide was already known to the geologists; however, its recent mapping revealed its extent. The lead author of the study was hiking through the wilderness of the Dixie National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land which led to the identification of Markagunt landslide as a much bigger one than previously assumed. The study has been published in the journal Geology.
The landslide had been the size of three Ohio counties and is in a close competition with the largest one of Earth, the Heart Mountain slide, in northwest Wyoming which took place 50 million years ago. However, scientists opine that on detailed mapping the Markagunt could beat the Heart Mountain slide in being the largest. The authors of the study noted “Large-scale catastrophic collapses of volcanic fields such as these are rare but represent the largest known landslides on the surface of the Earth.” According to the mapping, the landslide spanned over about 1,300 square miles and it itself was 55 miles long which prove that it was too fast and massive. Markagunt slide’s scale was further unveiled by examining the pseudotachylytes.
Lead author David Hacker, associate professor of geology at Kent State University, commented “You would think that the enormity of this landslide would be obvious, however, looking at it, you wouldn’t even recognize it as a landslide.” According to the researchers, this mega-landslide was primarily caused due to the vertical inflation of deeper magma chambers, which feed volcanoes. Understanding the Markagunt gravity slide can help the geologists to predict the future events better.