September 14, 2017 13:51 GMT by dailymail.co.uk

Melting permafrost washes through Tibetan grasslands

An astonishing video has emerged online showing a large section of mud and grass sliding down a hill in north-west China last Thursday. The flow was confirmed by local experts to be melting permafrost.

An astonishing video has emerged online showing a large section of mud and grass sliding down a hill in north-west China last Thursday.

The flow was later confirmed by local experts to be melting permafrost, a natural phenomenon in which thawing ice, mud and grass slide down from higher altitudes due to gravity.

About 40 herders from nine households had to be evacuated due to the incident, according to local news media.

The thawing permafrost brought down the mud and grass from the Tibetan Plateau, China

The thawing permafrost brought down the mud and grass from the Tibetan Plateau, China

Apparently, the hummocks had started to melt, which triggered a quarter mile long solifluction

Apparently, the hummocks had started to melt, which triggered a quarter mile long solifluction

Science and Technology Daily reported on September 12 that the video had been taken in Zhaduozhen of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province.

Footage circulated on Chinese social media has stunned web users as the massive flow of mud and grass measured roughly 397 metres (1,302 feet) long and 32 metres (105 feet) wide.

Soil and grass, also known as solifluction, can be seen flowing downhill next to a white yurt in the mountain terrain.

During the slow thawing process, small landforms are created and known as thermokarsts. 

Qinghai herder council told a reporter that they had relocated nine families to a safer place, which included over 40 herders and their livestock.

About 40 people had to be evacuated from their homes due to the effect of the thermokarst

About 40 people had to be evacuated from their homes due to the effect of the thermokarst

The slow thawing process brought down pieces of landforms known as the thermokarst

The slow thawing process brought down pieces of landforms known as the thermokarst

Local experts explained that the thawing could have been caused by heavy rainfall in the region recently.

'The compost on the top layer of the hummocks was about 2.5 metres deep (8.2 feet). It became heavier after the rain and started to slide due to gravity,' said one of the experts.

The thawing of the mud then took away bits of ground and formed a river-like mudslide, where the mud should normally be frozen all year round.

The video went viral in China because web users had thought it was a sign of impending earthquakes.

However, Meng Xingmen, the head of the Western China's Environment and Climate Change in Lanzhou University, confirmed that the solifluction was not related with earthquakes.

Solifluction, a natural soil erosion phenomenon, usually happens on high altitudes (file photo)

Solifluction, a natural soil erosion phenomenon, usually happens on high altitudes (file photo)

Science and Technology Daily stated that the thawing of the permafrost had happened quite often in northern China as the weather in Tibetan Plateau had turned warmer with an increase of rainfall.

Meng expected similar phenomena to appear more frequently in the coming months.

'The thawing is generally slow, thus it would not pose huge danger to members of the public living in the region. However, precautions should be taken carefully.'

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