Date of Graduation

Summer 2021


Master of Natural and Applied Science in Geography, Geology, and Planning


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Committee Chair

Matthew McKay


Landslides are common hazards that produce devastating effects worldwide. Within the United States, the Appalachian Mountains are identified as an area of moderate to high susceptibility and incidence for landslides (Mirus et al., 2020; Wieczorek and Morgan, 2008). Given the presence of active seismic zones (eastern Tennessee and Giles County seismic zones) and variable rainfall due to seasonal storms (hurricanes) throughout the Appalachians, ancient earthquake activity or intense rainfall may trigger mass wasting events. Regional bedrock joints may further control the susceptibility of landslides to develop in specific locations during trigger events by providing a pre-existing weakness in the substrate. This relationship is demonstrated by three large rock block slides in the Appalachian Valley and Ridge province downslope of ridges where bedrock units are oriented parallel to regional fractures. To investigate the distribution of joint orientations and landslide occurrence throughout the southern and central Appalachians, I present 3,000 structural measurements of joints collected throughout the southern Valley and Ridge province. The discordance between joint orientations and local strike of bedrock units is used to (a) identify higher- and lower-risk mass wasting zones, (b) focus searches for unmapped, ancient landslides using high resolution digital elevation models, including light detection and ranging (LiDAR) based data and (c) to determine if joint orientations are influenced by regional basement structures. From these techniques, two mass wasting features were identified 60 miles southwest of the Sinking Creek Mountain landslides along the same ridge, within the Giles County seismic zone.


Appalachians, landslides, joints, seismic activity, basement structures

Subject Categories

Geology | Tectonics and Structure


© Madeline Konopinski

Open Access