There’s a problem with landslides.
Okay, there are many problems with landslides, and I’m sure many would count “annual odds of death by landslide are one in a million” as a significant problem, but that’s not the one I’m tackling tonight. Tonight, the issue flirts with landslide literature, consistency, and frustration with technical diction.
Landslide literature has a whole slew of contradictory classification schemes. I’ll be a bit more precise on the numbers and styles as I edit this to add sources, but at the very least you can classify by material or mechanism of movement. Within that, you could classify by material alone, material then mechanism, material and mechanism in combination, mechanism then material, or mechanism all by itself. Even if you pick material alone, is that material at the source of the landslide? That it travels over? The dominant material? And how would you judge dominant — by volume or mass? Every expert and organization of experts has a scheme, and the schemes are mostly determined by what is most useful to the target audience. I understand the point — it’d be wonderful for me if I could filter landslides by size (half a million cubic meters or lager) and very grossly by mechanism of movement (fluid) just by looking at the name! Yet all the same, it is intensely frustrating to read the same term in ten papers and have it mean entirely different things.
I’m not proposing yet another competing standard, nor arguing for a particular standard to be used by all. Instead, I propose creating a conversion tool to translate between these schemes. And since this is my website, the default output will not follow any current classification scheme but instead use nonsense phrases so we don’t end up with yet another definition for mudflow.
I leave it ambiguous if my motivation is to bring clarity to the world of landslide literature, make it easier to write my thesis, or create the opportunity to include the phrase “sloppy pink smurf” in a technical piece.