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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Linneman, Scott

Second Advisor

Clark, Douglas H., 1961-

Third Advisor

Mitchell, Robert J. (Geologist)

Fourth Advisor

Pittman, Paul David


I investigated the applicability of using terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to quantify surface displacement of the Swift Creek landslide, an active earth flow in the foothills of northwest Washington State. Five surveys were completed from October, 2009-April, 2011 to identify and measure spatial and temporal changes in the movement of the landslide. The seasonally variable movement patterns at the site provide an ideal environment to test the effectiveness of newly emerging methods to measure surface displacement. Iterative closest point (ICP) analysis and image cross-correlation via particle image velocimetry (PIV) were applied to sequential TLS datasets to identify and match features in multi-temporal data. ICP utilizes a distance-based function to match point-cloud surfaces whereas PIV is essentially a pixel-matching algorithm applied to derived DEMs and slopegradient images. Results of the analysis revealed that the ICP and PIV methods applied to LiDAR data are suitable for measuring surface displacement on actively deforming landscapes. Total movement rates of 25 boulders on the toe ranged from 3.3 to 39.3 m/yr, with seasonal changes evident in their movement patterns. PIV analysis produced a spatially continuous displacement field when the time between surveys was less than about five months. Results show that the toe is a highly dynamic zone with as many as five discrete zones of movement. To gain a better understanding of the overall dynamics of the Swift Creek landslide, I applied PIV analysis to airborne LiDAR acquired in 2006 and 2011 that extended the spatial coverage to the entire basin. Movement rates on the main body of the landslide were 3.0 (+/- 0.9) m/yr over the five years. Using both terrestrial and airborne LiDAR data allowed me to circumvent the limitations of each to quantify movement across the whole landslide. My data suggests that the landslide undergoes a transition from a predominately sliding mass in its upper portion to a flow near the top of the unvegetated toe based on increasing velocity and more variable movement patterns observed in this area.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Earth movements--Washington (State)--Swift Creek (Whatcom County); Landslides--Washington (State)--Swift Creek (Whatcom County); Optical radar

Geographic Coverage

Swift Creek (Whatcom County, Wash.)




masters theses




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