The world's second-largest, recorded landslide event: Lessons learnt from the landslides triggered during and after the 2018 Mw 7.5 Papua New Guinea earthquake

Hakan Tanyaş, Kevin Hill, Luke Mahoney, Islam Fadel, Luigi Lombardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Events characterized by widespread landslides provide rare but valuable opportunities to investigate the spatial and size distributions of landslides in relation to seismic, climatic, geological and morphological factors. This study presents a unique event inventory for the co-seismic landslides induced by the February 25, 2018 Mw 7.5 Papua New Guinea earthquake. The mainshock rupture was dominated by reverse fault motion, and this was also the case for the aftershocks. The latter also triggered widespread landslides in combination with rainfall during the period between February 26 and March 19. We mapped approximately 11,600 landslides of which, more than 10,000 were triggered by the mainshock, with a total failed planimetric area of about 145 km2. Such a large area makes this inventory the world's second-largest recorded landslide event after the 2008 Mw 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake, where the motion changed from predominantly thrust to strike-slip. Large landslides are abundant throughout the study area located within the remote Papua New Guinea Highlands. Specifically, more than half of the landslide population is larger than 50,000 m2 and overall, post-seismic landslides are even larger than their co-seismic counterparts. To understand the factors controlling the distribution of landslides' occurrence and size, we combine descriptive statistics as well as more rigorous bivariate and multivariate analyses. We statistically show that the 15-day antecedent precipitation plays a role in explaining the spatial distribution of co-seismic landslides. Also, we examine four strong aftershocks (Mw ≥ 6.0) within 9 days after the mainshock and statistically demonstrate that the cumulative effect of aftershocks is the main factor disturbing steep hillslopes and causing the initiation of very large landslides, up to ~5 km2. Overall, the dataset and the findings presented in this paper represent a step towards a holistic understanding of the seismic landslide hazard assessment of the entire Papua New Guinea mainland.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106504
JournalEngineering Geology
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-01-18
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): URF/1/4338-01-01
Acknowledgements: The authors wish to thank Papuan Oil Search, ExxonMobil and Santos for permission to publish the seismic section and photos taken from the site. The inventories we mapped for this study will be shared through the Open Repository of Earthquake-Triggered Ground-Failure Inventories upon acceptance of this manuscript. The research presented in this article is partially supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, Grant URF/1/4338-01-01.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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