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Warm weather a possible factor in Staithes fatal rockfall

The British Geological Survey (BGS) has said that recent warm weather could have been the trigger for the rockfall at Staithes in North Yorkshire, which killed a nine year old girl.

According to the BGS, Wednesday’s fatal landslip is one of a number of coastal cliff failure reported in recent weeks.

“Landslides, including rockfalls, are commonly triggered in the UK by rainfall,” said BGS science director for engineering geology Helen Reeves. “In this instance, the recent unprecedented warm dry weather is likely to be a contributing factor. Current research has linked rockfalls to temperature fluctuations, but the research to fully understand this process is still ongoing.

“We would like to reiterate the warnings that the RNLI and local councils give regularly about staying away from cliffs. Take notice of warning signs. Do not go directly under or on top of cliffs as our coast is a dynamic environment that is changing all the time.”

Commenting on the geological setting of the fatal incident in North Yorkshire, the BGS said in a statement: “Staithes is a village on the North Yorkshire coast where there are steep cliffs of Jurassic-age. These cliffs are formed from Staithes Sandstone and Cleveland Ironstone Formations. The Staithes Sandstone forms the lower part of the eastern cliff section and consists of alternating sequences of weak siltstones and strong blocky sandstones. The overlying Cleveland Ironstone is a sequence of predominantly weak siltstones and strong blocky ironstones, which forms the upper section of the cliff face. The weaker layers can be more easily weathered and eroded leaving unsupported blocks which can ultimately fall as a rockfall.”

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