UW professors win award for study of Oso landslide


Congratulations are in order for two University of Washington professors who published a report about the causes of the 2014 Oso landslide. Joseph Wartman, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and David Montgomery, professor of Earth and space sciences, were part of a 7-person team from the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association (GEER) that just won the Geological Society of America’s highest prize for engineering geology for their Oso study.The GEER team, co-led by Wartman, arrived on the scene just days after the landslide and published their report a few months later. As we wrote at the time, the GEER study “found that one of the largest causes of the slide was extreme rainfall. Thirty inches of rain fell in the three weeks leading up to the slide; the state’s average for the entire month of March is just six inches of rain. The landslide’s area’s history of previous slides played another key role.”

Here’s how the Everett Herald described the study when reporting on Wartman and Montgomery’s award:

The GEER report was the first significant scientific study of the 2014 Oso slide. Notably, it bucked the conventional wisdom that rushed to connect the slide’s cause to various parties, such as the logging industry or real estate developers. Instead the report found no clear cause of the reactivation of a 2006 landslide on the hillside.

The Geological Society of America praised the thoroughness of the study:

This year’s citation recognizes the Oso report’s “comprehensive nature and high technical level,” while noting that the authors did an exceptional job summarizing the event and publishing the report quickly. The report was released on the four-month anniversary of the landslide.

“Events like the Oso landslide cause a scientific leap in applied geology,” the committee wrote. “The authors have decades of experience, which translated into the meticulous report capturing this extreme event. This is an outstanding publication, meeting the criteria of a publication that advances knowledge in the engineering geology field.”