Geohazards Program

Turtle Mountain Sensors Project Studies Monitoring Data

Last modified:
November 26, 2013

Turtle Mountain Monitoring System

Turtle Mountain banner graphic showing various images of people working on Turtle Mountain
Turtle Mountain slide area
Aerial photo: The yellow, dashed line shows the most unstable area below South Peak on Turtle Mountain. Inset: The star shows the location of Turtle Mountain.
(Photo reproduced with permission from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Air Photo Distribution. Image owned by the Government of Alberta and protected under the Copyright Act of Canada.)

In 2005, Alberta Geological Survey began long-term monitoring of Turtle Mountain's structure and instability.

Monitoring Priorities

The first priority of the monitoring system is providing early warning to residents of a possible catastrophic rock avalanche.

The secondary priority is creating a field laboratory for researchers to test and develop instruments and monitoring technologies to understand the mechanics of slowly moving rock masses.

Alberta Geological Survey will release its data to the research community and work with researchers to test and develop new monitoring technologies on the mountain.

This ongoing research will help us understand the movement of South Peak, including the lower slope. This will create a better model to predict future movement.

Monitoring Equipment

We use a network of more than 40 state-of-the-art sensors installed on the mountain as an early warning system for residents and infrastructure companies with interests in the identified hazard zone.

The continuous data stream from this network provides valuable insights into the mechanics of the slowly moving rock mass, as well as how weather affects the sensors.

The research community receives valuable data from the sensors and ongoing studies that describe the mountain's structure and movement patterns.

Monitoring History

After the catastrophic 1903 landslide that buried part of the town of Frank, many people have tried to understand what caused the landslide to determine if a second rock avalanche will occur.

Dr. John Allan, founder of Alberta Geological Survey, said the area known as South Peak may fail. If it does, five million cubic metres of rock could fall. Other scientists have tried to understand the movement rate of the peak, but their results have been inconclusive.

Between 2003 and 2005, government, private industry and academia undertook a large multidisciplinary project to monitor and describe South Peak's movement. You can read about that program in our geological report.