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Clarke, G.R.T

School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK. Email

Hughes, D. A. B. (Corresponding author)

School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK. Tel.+44 (0)28 90974014 Email

Barbour, S.L.

Department of Civil & Geological Engineering, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. Email

Sivakumar, V.

School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK. Email

ABSTRACT The future, long-term, stability of slopes in cuttings and embankments is of increasing concern among geotechnical engineers in the UK. A study of the motorway earthworks in the UK (Perry, 1999) conservatively estimates that three times as many slopes are likely to fail than have failed to date if no preventative measures are taken to account for climate change and progressive failure. Elevated pore-pressures as well as pore-pressure cycling are both responsible for decreases in soil strength and the stability of slopes (Potts et al 1997). Recent studies in Northern Ireland have been directed towards investigating the effect of rainfall events on the long term stability of cuttings on both road and rail infrastructure. Several cuttings in glacial till (Hughes et al. 2001, Clarke et al. 2005) have been investigated in detail and long-term monitoring of near surface pore pressure changes have been recorded and correlated with rainfall events. Monitored short-term (hourly) and long-term (annual) fluctuations in pore pressure response due to climatic forcing have been simulated in order to identify the properties and processes controlling pore-pressure dynamics within the cutting slopes. The paper presents the field monitoring data of pore pressure change correlated with rainfall events for the north of Ireland. The effect of rainfall events on stability has been discussed and the implication of climate change on the geotechnical infrastructure in the UK, such as more intense winter rainfall events and drier summer weather, have been outlined.

KEYWORDS: climate, slope, stability, glacial tills, drumlins



Infrastructure embankments and cuttings are used to afford the passage of transport with a minimal need for changes in vertical alignment. In the UK, embankments and cuttings (collectively referred to as earthworks or earth structures) make up about one third of the total asset value for transport infrastructure (Perry, 1989). The viability of replacing these assets is poor, and the cost of maintaining them is increasing.

Instability of slopes, both natural and man-made, is an increasing global problem and can cause extensive damage to transportation infrastructure. Slope instabilities, and the resulting movement of the landform, are a common problem in the United Kingdom, and they occasionally result in catastrophic failures (Perry, 1989; Crabb & Atkinson, 1991, The Scottish Executive, 2005). Increasing frequency of severe weather events associated with climate change (Hulme et al, 2002) has

1-4244-0218-2/06/$20.00 ©2006 IEEE.

brought new challenges for highway maintenance including, in some cases, considerab le damage to the highway asset. The predicted increases both in frequency and intensity of winter rainfall are likely to increase significantly the occurrence of slope instability across the UK (SNIFFER 2002). Those areas historically considered as unstable will be at even greater risk of failure. A study of the UK’s Motorway earthworks (Perry, 1999; Turner, 2001) conservatively estimates that three times as many slopes are likely to fail than have failed to date if no preventative measures are taken to take account of climate change and progressive failure.

Trunk routes in Northern Ireland are provided and maintained by the Roads Service of the Department for Regional Development (DRD). The complete public road network is approximately 24,800km long, with some 1,200km of trunk roads linking major towns (DRD Road Service, 2006). Northern Ireland has a strongly car dependent population with some 84% of all journeys being made by motor vehicle (DRD, 2005), underlying the importance of Northern Ireland’s road infrastructure. The awareness of the impact of climate change on the infrastructure in Northern Ireland is low and the industry has adopted, in general, a reactive approach to climate variability rather than planning a long-term strategy.

The threats posed by climate change to Northern Ireland infrastructure are many and varied, with significant environmental, social, and economic implications (Sniffer, 2002). The recent ‘rainfall induced’ failure of a highway cutting at Dromore (Hughes el al, 2001) has increased the concern within Northern Ireland over the stability of infrastructure earthworks throughout the province. The failure of the road cutting at Dromore coincided with an exceptional period of prolonged wet weather. Recent occurrences of extreme climatic events in which periods of extreme weather occur in rapid succession, have prompted much speculation with respect to climate change and it’s affect on slope stability.

Highway geotechnical infrastructure in the UK commonly requires a design life of up to 120 years (DMRB, 1995). It is important for the construction industry to recognise that there will be an expectation among users and the wider community that current developments will be designed for climate changes within the lifetime of the development. The industry needs to understand how to design projects to deal with future climate change while facing uncertainty over the possible future climate conditions. If the risks associated with climate change are not factored into designs there are likely to be future implications, such as:

This paper presents the results of a preliminary climatic, meteorological and hydrogeological study of a large cutting on a program to dual the A1 near Loughbrickland. The paper summaries the predicted changes in climate within Northern Ireland based on UKCIP climate change scenarios and presents the field monitoring data of pore pressure change correlated with rainfall events. The effect of rainfall events on stability has been discussed and the implication of climate change on the geotechnical infrastructure in the UK outlined. The research study recommends that other similar slopes be examined to assess the risk of slope instability and, if the risk of failure is high, preventative cost effective treatment of the slope should be carried out to improve stability.




  • 2.1 Site Location

The highway cutting is located on a new dualling works on the A1 near Loughbrickland, Co. Down and is part of the main Belfast to Dublin Euroroute 1 (Fig. 1).The area of interest lies between Loughbrickland and Newry which is located in the south west region of Co. Down. The A1 in this region passes through agricultural land which is underlain by glacial till. Apart from work already carried out on the existing roadway (significant sections have been dualled and are realigned), very little development has occurred along the route.

Belfast Loughbrickland Euroroute 1 Dublin
Euroroute 1

higher maintenance costs

FIGURE 1 - site location: Loughbrickland Euroroute 1:

costs relating to contractual arrangements with infrastructure not meeting the design life indirect costs associated with reputation and public perception.

Belfast to Dublin road link


Site Geology

This area of Co. Down (as in many other parts of the region) is proliferated by drumlins which are a common by-product of glaciation (McCabe et al, 1999). The topography of such regions is characterised by undulating surface features – easily recognisable as rounded hummocky hills – which are smooth, rockless and generally devoid of marked or abrupt changes in gradient. The current geological maps and records of the region show it to be underlain by glacial lodgement till or boulder clay, as it is more commonly described (GSNI, 2004). To a much lesser extent, interglacial “drift” deposits of sand and gravel occur in some localised areas. The glacial sediments are in turn underlain by the bedrock of the Lower Palaeozoic marine era and are derived from sediments of the Silurian age consisting of greywacke sandstones, siltstone, mudstone and shales and grits.

Four boreholes (BH1-4) were drilled to bedrock, a depth of between 19.5m and 25m, during January and February 2004, followed by two subsequent shallow boreholes (BH5-6) 3-10m in November 2004 (Figure 2). The drumlin consists of reasonably homogenous glacial till underlain by a highly permeable weathered rock layer (varying in depth from 0.5m-3m) and bedrock. Falling and rising head permeability tests were undertaken in each of the ten standpipes. The results indicate that the glacial till had permeability in the range of 1x10 -9 m/s - 1x10 -8 m/s, typical range for glacial tills in the UK (Trenter, N.A., 1999). Clarke et al, 2005 describes in more detail the soil properties and site geology.

N Lough Brickland Existing road New Road BH4 BH3 BH2 BH1 0 50m New Road Alignment
Lough Brickland
Existing road
New Road
New Road Alignment
Existing road

FIGURE 2 Topography map showing the plan cross-

section of boreholes and the cutting.

location of the highway






The main hydro-climatic features of slope instability are point rainfall intensities, storm rainfall depths, seasonal rainfall depths, rainfall frequency, and evaporative losses. The following text briefly describes the characteristics of these in the present climate and how these are projected to change in the future.

Predicted climate changes for Northern Ireland are characterised by warming and a rise in precipitation and potential evapo-transpiration, although seasonal and annual effects are inconsistent and year-to-year variation may confound overall trends. Improved models and estimates of the spatial and temporal patterns of climate change will provide more detail of changes. Particular attention must be directed to the repercussions of inter- annual variability and climate extremes.

Possible future climate changes for Northern Ireland have been estimated, based upon the UKCIP02 climate scenarios (UKCIP, 2002). Climate changes relate to four scenarios: Low Emissions, Medium-Low Emissions, Medium-High Emissions and High Emissions. These scenarios are used to predict three future thirty-year periods centred on the 2020s, the 2050s and the 2080s. The 2020s are considered to be representative of the period 2010-2039, the 2050s of 2040-2069 and the 2080s of 2070-2099. Changes during each of these periods are calculated as the change in the thirty-year mean climate with respect to the 1961-90 average.

The research site at Loughbrickland is in close proximity

to a meteorological station at Magherally (a meteorological station located 8km north-east of Loughbrickland). The weather data from this station was used in this project and was assumed to be an accurate reflection of the weather received at Loughbrickland research site.

3.1 Temperature

Northern Ireland’s dominantly oceanic climate regime

means that temperature extremes are rare, mean annual temperatures range from 8.5 O C to 9.5 O C. Mean air

temperature fluctuates within narrow limits (0-20 O C), with

a 10% probability of a departure more than 0.5 O C from

the 1961-1990 mean. Figure 3 shows the m onthly mean

values for daily minimum and maximum temperatures at Magherally, for the years 1961-90. The climate of

Northern Ireland is greatly influenced by its mid-latitude

oceanic position on a westernside of a landmass (Betts,

1997) and therefore minimal changes in temperature as

a result of climate change are predicted (Table 1).

10 Mean Maximum Daily Mean Minimum Daily Month ND SO A J FMAMJ J Temperature (
Mean Maximum Daily
Mean Minimum Daily
Temperature ( o C)

FIGURE 3: monthly mean values for daily minimum and maximum temperatures at Magherally (Latitude 54.36 O N Longitude -6.195 O W Elevation 97.0mAOD), for the years 1961-90 (source: BADC 2005).

3.2 Precipitation

Northern Ireland has a general west-east trend of decreasing precipitation which is complicated by topography. Highest areas of upland receive annual precipitation in excess of 1600 mm, and the driest areas are surrounding Lough Neagh with annual totals less than 750 mm (Figure 4). Annual total precipitation for Loughbrickland ranges from 900-1000mm. Seasonal variation of precipitation in Northern Ireland is not large, but the wettest months are between August and January.









changes in temperature for N. Ireland (UKCIP, 2002).


Temperature change O C





Summer mean

+0.5 - +2.0

+1.0 - +4.0

+1.5 - +5.0

Winter mean

-0.5 - +1.0

+1.0 - +2.5

+1.5 - +4.0




Approx. 10-fold increase in number of


hot days


* range of temperatures from low emission to high emission scenario

Figure 5 compares the mean monthly precipitation for the periods 1965-75 and 1995-2005. ‘Wet days’ (daily precipitation =1 mm) range from 150 days - 200. Daily rainfalls exceeding 100 mm occur over Co. Down, but falls greater than 125 mm are rare and absent from lowland sites (Met Office 2006). The maximum 24-hour precipitation recorded was 158.9 mm at Tollymore Forest, County Down in October 1968. Precipitation amounts of more than 16 mm in 60 minutes have a return period of five years, as do 48-hour totals of 50 mm over lowland, 75 mm in the Loughbrickland area (Logue, 1995). The total precipitation in Northern Ireland has not changed significantly since 1965 (Met Office 2006).

However greater variation in seasonal total rainfall is

being recorded (Met Office 2006) and predicted (UKCIP,

2002) (Figure 5 & Table 2).


FIGURE 4 Mean annual rainfall for Northern Ireland, for the years 1961-90 (Betts, 1999)

120 J J J N D A FMAM SO Precepitation (mm) 100 1965-1975 140 160 180
Precepitation (mm)


FIGURE 5 Mean monthly values for precipitation at

Magherally (Latitude 54.36 O N Longitude -6.195 O W Elevation 97.0mAOD), for the years 1965-75 and 1995-

2005 (source: BADC 2005).









changes in precipitation for the NI.


% Change in Annual Total Precipitation






Mean summer

  • 0 - -2O%

  • 0 - -40%



- -60%

Mean winter

  • 0 - +15%

  • 0 - +25%



- +40%

Extreme winter






* range of precipitation from low emission to high emission scenarios

  • 3.3 Potential Evapo-Transpiration (PET) and Water Balance

In addition to precipitation the other potentially important climate variable is potential evapo-transpiration. This is a function of net radiation, temperature, humidity and wind speed. Mean annual potential evapo-transpir ation is a relatively conservative value across Northern Ireland, ranging from 339mm in upland areas to 568mm in eastern coastal areas. Loughbrickland has a PET value of approximately 500mm annually. In terms of the annual potential water balance (precipitation minus PET), precipitation greatly exceeds PET in Northern Ireland. In Loughbrickland annual precipitation (900-1000mm) is approximately double the mean annual potential evapo- transpiration (500mm) a net excess precipitation of 500mm available for groundwater recharge. In Northern Ireland precipitation rate generally exceeds potential evapo-transpiration rates throughout the year (Figure 6) Loughbrickland is in one of the few areas in Northern Ireland where the potential evapo-transpira tion exceeds precipitation for more than 3months.

Monthly data show that the excess precipitation over PET during winter is reversed from late spring onwards (Figure 7). With PET exceeding precipitation, a soil moisture deficit (SMD) develops to an average July value of 50mm generally for Northern Ireland. Soil moisture deficit (SMD) is the quantity of water (mm) from rainfall or irrigation needed to return a soil to field capacity i. e. the maximum water holding capacity when free drainage can occur (Kettlewell et al, 2003). Soils normally return to field capacity in September.

Land over 150m PET<P for all months PET>P for more th 3 th Loughbrickland FIGURE 6
Land over 150m
PET<P for all months
PET>P for more
FIGURE 6 Generalised distribution of the mean number of
months in the year when soil moisture deficit (PET - ?P)
develops under Northern Ireland’s present climate
regime (source: Betts, 1997).

In summary, available climate change guidance suggests that no part of the Northern Ireland is likely to be dramatically wetter or drier on average by the end of the

twenty first century; however the seasonal nature of rainfall patterns change is predicted to be significant. Quantitatively potential evaporation is likely to appreciably increase in the summer and autumn. This in combination with summer reductions in rainfall could lead to more persistent soil moisture deficits in Loughbrickland, though the size of maximum deficits are not likely to significantly change. Extreme rainfalls will increase during winter months. Total rainfall from storm events might increase by up to 40% by the end of the century (DETR, 2003). These models are not showing dramatic increases in rainfall and temperature however they predict greater inter-annual variation, drier summers and wetter winters.



Recent predictions of climate change as a consequence of increased greenhouse-gas production suggest that Europe will experience a higher frequency of extreme rainfall events (UKCIP, 2002). This could increase the frequency of occurrence of high pore pressures, and thus the activity of rainfall-triggered landslides (Beniston and Douglas 1996). Natural and human influenced events can contribute to the instability of slopes. Water is recognised as being a primary con tributor to the instability of a slope through the increase of pore water pressure within soils and rocks. Slopes are only seriously at risk of failure if there is an incipient slip zone with a safety factor little more than 1.0.

120 PET P 100 80 60 40 20 0 J FM AM J J A S
Precipitation/PET (mm)


FIGURE 7 Mean monthly values for precipitation (P) and potential evapo-transpiration (PET) at Magherally climatological station in Northern Ireland, for the years 1969-94 (BADC, 2006).

Increased temperature and drier conditions will exacerbate shrinkage and cause a zone of highly desiccated clay, particularly within clay soils. Sudden intense storms, or periods of increased rainfall in winter, allow this desiccated zone to fill with precipitation quickly, and this alone may be enough to trigger shallow failures. Winter rainfall also raises groundwater levels and increases pore pressures within the slope, which

reduces shear strength. The whole wetting and drying cycle is a continual process that affects the stability of slopes and may become more crucial as the cycle becomes more extreme under a changing climate. Intense rainstorms can lead to a rapid increase in pore water pressure and trigger ground movements.

Slopes engineered to modern standards with adequate safety factors are unlikely to become unstable as a result of changes to the climate. Natural landslips that may affect development need careful investigation and may require remedial action against failure. Climate change considerations affecting slope stability include the following:

the total annual volume of rainfall is not expected to

change significantly, but the UK can expect by 2020s that winter rainfall will increase with a corresponding decrease in summer rainfall both mean summer and winter temperatures are

expected to increase, although the increase in summer temperature is predicted to be higher than that for winter. Increase of extreme weather events

The spatial pattern of slope stability problems is likely to be complex, as different areas in Northern Ireland will experience variable changes in the magnitude and frequency of precipitation. Moreover, different types of slope will respond either to meteorological changes in the long term (monthly or yearly rainfall) or short term (daily or weekly rainfall) (Asch, 1996). Interestingly, the authors note that the design process upon which infrastructure provision is based is a ‘semi-empirical’ process: i.e. experience is used to inform the process, with knowledge of failures being incorporated into the design model to prevent such failures occurring in the future. This process, balanced against design criteria formulated from current projections of likely climate impacts, could help deliver design standards for new road infrastructure which will be better prepared for expected climate change impacts.






  • 5.1 Installation of Piezometers

The effects of rainfall on positive pore-water pressures throughout the slope were studied using peizometers and rainfall data acquired from the UK Meteorological Office (HMSO, 2006). Figure 2 shows the locations and the layout of instruments installed in the drumlin. A multi- level installation technique was used, locating three vibrating wire peizometers standpipes in the borehole at 1.5m, 2.0m and 2.5m (Figure 9). The peizometers were sealed above and below the piezometer tip with bentonite to enable rapid measurements of changes in total head as recommended by Hanna (1985). An automatic data

acquisition system (DA system) was installed to collect pore water pressures at frequent intervals.

Bentonite Grout -1.5m Bentonite vibrating wire piezometer Grout -2.0m Bentonite Grout -2.5m
vibrating wire

FIGURE 9 Cross-section of multi -level piezometer installation for near surface pore water pressure monitoring (BH 6)

  • 5.2 Pore water pressure response to rainfall

A monitoring program was carried out to assess pore water pressure response to rainfall events and seasonal changes. During the 6 month record (August 2005 - January 2006) of monitoring there is clear evidence of the response of the monitored pore water pres sures to rainfall (Figure 10 and 11).

  • 5.2.1 General characteristics

The pore pressure responses in the 3 near surface peizometers exhibit some general characteristics. Figure 10 shows the pore water response to rainfall over a

period of 6 days. During the six days there was two distinct rainfall periods totalling 8mm (0-24h) and 24mm (48-96h). The two events recorded a positive change in pore water pressures. All peizometers were situated in the saturated zone and responses to rainfall were synchronous and rel atively rapid. The rapidity and magnitude of pore water pressure response reduces with depth. For example, the minimum lag time (between peak rainfall and peak pore water pressure response) at

  • 1.5 m 2.0m and 2,5m depth is 4h, 6h and 8h respectively.

When the rainfall duration increases, the pore pressure tends to respond synchronically at the range of depth, both in response times and magnitude. After a period of rainfall, pore pressure decline is s ynchronized with rainfall process. The pore pressure response characteristics are also strongly affected by initial soil moisture conditions and duration and intensity of rainfall event.

2.0 40 1.5 30 1.0 20 0.5 10 0.0 0 0 24 48 72 96 120
Time (hrs)
Rainfall intensity
Relative Pressure head (mm)
Cummulative rainfall

FIGURE 10 Pore water pressure response to single rainfall events in the near surface peizometers (at depths:

1.5m, 2.0m, and 2.5m below ground surface).

  • 5.2.2 Effect of antecedent rainfall

Antecedent rainfall is one of the crucial factors in determining the initial soil moisture conditions and subsequently the pore water response to rainfall. Figure 11 shows the pore water pressure response to periods of rainfall in the near surface peizometers for the six month period. Table 3 summaries the initial response of pore water pressure to the two periods of rainfall. During Period A (Day 0-25) there was 110.2mm of rainfall (including a 34mm single rainfall event) however the pore water pressure response to this period of rainfall was moderate (i ncrease of between 43 and 91mm). There was also a significant time lag of between 8-13hours time lag incre asing with depth. In contrast Period B (Day 65-90) a total of 148mm of rainfall was recorded and this showed a significantly greater pore water pressure response to rainfall (approximately 781-960mm increase). There was also a reduced time lag of between 4-7hours time lag increasing with depth. These two periods had similar total precipitation however the magnitude and rapidity of pore water pressure response was quite different. There was low antecedent rainfall prior to period A that may have resulted in a high soil moisture deficit. Subsequently the magnitude and the rapidity of pore water response c ould have been reduced. In contrast the magnitude and rapidity of pore water response was much greater for the period B. The occurrence of pronounced groundwater peaks rapidly following precipitation events is greatly dependent on the initial groundwater conditions.

The 1m unsaturated zone between the phreatic surface

and ground surface remains at a high level of saturation,

and therefore only requires low levels of rainfall to cause

significant pore water pressure response. For example

the near to surface layer has a water content of

approximately 25% and a porosity of 35% therefore the

change in water content for sa turation is 10% of the total


As a result an infiltration of 100 mm would

produce 1 000 mm of pressure change.

40 400 Cum. Rainfall Hourly Rainfall 30 300 20 200 10 100 0 0 0 25
Cum. Rainfall
Hourly Rainfall
75 100
Time (days)
Relative head (m)
Hourly Rainfall (mm)
Cummulative Rainfall (mm

FIGURE 11 Pore water pressure response to periods of rainfall in the near surface peizometers (at depths: -1.5m, -2.0m, and -2.5m below ground surface).

TABLE 3 Summarises the magnitude and rapidity pore water pressure response to two periods of rainfall.




Pore Water Pressure response /mm (time lag*













  • 110.2 (10:40)








  • 148.2 (5:40)



* Time lag – time difference between peak rainfall and peak pore water pressure response


Northern Ireland’s extremely oceanic climate regime means that temperature, precipitation and subsequently potential evapo-transpiration rarely reach extremes. The weather changes that have been predicted through UKCIP’s climate change scenarios (2010-2099) show the influence caused by the ‘greenhouse’ effect. Predicted climate changes for Northern Ireland are characterised by warming, rise in precipitation and potential evapo-transpiration. The annual rises are not

dramatic h owever p articular attention must be directed to the impact of inter-annual variability and seasonal effects that are inconsistent from year-to-year. UKCIP are forecasting greater seasonal changes, wetter winters and drier summers.

The predicted variation in climate is unlikely to prove significant in terms of an instantaneous increase in major slope failures within Northern Ireland. The Loughbrickland cutting is unlikely to catastrophically fail (Factor of Safety > 1.5) from single rainfall events or periods of sustained rainfall. This is due to Northern Ireland’s climate providing net infiltration year on year and establishing a soil/water equilibrium. The phreatic surface typically varies between ground surface and a depth of 1-2m, these small changes do not significantly affect slope stability. However the variable nature of Northern Ireland’s precipitation could prove a major contributing factor to progressive or delayed failure of cut slopes (Potts, 1997). Long-term cyclic loading is postulated to be the main contributing factors to progressive failures. The roll of the hydraulic surface boundary condition, which is controlled by climate, is important in controlling collapse (Kovacevic et al, 2001). The daily and seasonal precipitation variability contributes to the transient nature of pore water pressure fluctuations. The whole wetting and drying cycle is a continual process that affects the stability of slopes and may become more crucial as the cycle becomes more extreme under a changing climate. This transient phenomenon may have a potentially significant effect on the geo-mechanical behaviour of the slope.

The pore water pressure monitoring observed has shown that antecedent rainfall has a huge influence on the pore water pressure response to rainfall. Two similar precipitation (Period A: 100.2mm, Period B: 148.2mm) periods produced d ramatically different pore water responses (Period A: 43-91mm, Per iod B: 781 -960mm). The main reason for a large response in Period B is the degree of saturation e.g. if average water content was 0.2 and porosity was 0.3 then change in water content for saturation is 0.1, therefore an infiltration of 100 mm would produce 1000 mm of pore water pressure change. In contrast Period A followed a dry period and the degree of saturation would be low. Therefore the same precipitation had a relatively minimal effect on pore water pressure.

The risk of major failures is low in the short-term (following excavation); however it would be prudent to expect an increase in superficial shallow slip failures. Shallow failures have been observed on the cut slopes at Lough brickland soon after excavation (Figure 12 and 13). These are likely to be the most common cause of failure throughout the service life of the cutting. The problem of minor slope instabilities on the motorway and trunk road network has been described by Symons (1970) and Perry (1989). The problems are mainly confined to overconsolidated clays and particularly high sections of cuttings similar to Loughbrickland. However the ongoing

cost of repairs to the slope failures constitutes a significant amount of maintenance expenditure. The maintenance component of the whole life cost may be up to 3.7 times the capital cost for construction with a high rate of slope failure (Reid & Clarke, 2000).

dramatic h owever p articular attention must be directed to the impact of inter-annual variability and

FIGURE 12 substantial shallow slope failures and granular replacement remediation.

dramatic h owever p articular attention must be directed to the impact of inter-annual variability and

FIGURE 13 Remediation work to slope replacement.

– granular fill

The data collected in the first six months of the research consistently confirmed that pore water pressure response in the study area is a transient process. Initial monitoring of pore water pressure reading near surface shows a rapid and synchronise response to rainfall.

The data shows distinctive hydrographs emerging following periods of significant rainfall both in the near surface monitoring. The initial data has also confirmed that initial soil moisture conditions are a major factor in the magnitude and rapidity of response. Research by Ridley et al (2004), verified that there is a good correlation between the shallow pore water pressures (and hence the zero pressure line) in earth structures and variations of the soil moisture deficit (SMD). The glacial till within the slope has a low hydraulic conductivity (even when saturated), it does not desaturate until a high soil suction is reached and the reduction in degree of saturation through drying is gradual (Ridley, 2003). Thus clayey soils do not readily absorb surface water, they require prolonged periods of rainfall to wet up, and the zone of

moisture deficit can extend to great depth. This may explain the reduced impact of pore water pressure response and extended time lag (peak rainfall – peak pore water pressure response) that was observed following dry periods. Conversely there was greater rapidity and magnitude of pore water pressure response following a wet period.

The understanding of the long-term effect of cyclical loading and slope hydrogeology can only be achieved by combining long-term monitoring with numerical modelling of transient, saturated and unsaturated flow. However in light of the preliminary work that has been undertaken a good correlation has been observed between rainfall events and pore water pressure response. The ability to minimise the effect of rainfall events is fundamental to the long-term stability of cut slopes.


Climate change in No rthern Ireland is characterised by greater inter-annual variation in precipitation and evapo- transpiration, with minimal overall annual variation. This inter-annual variation in climate has caused more extremes in weather, and more prolonged dry and wet periods.

The current and future increase in frequency of extreme events will have a detrimental affect on the long term stability of slopes. If the magnitude and frequency of both climate events and pore water pressure response increase, there will be a subsequent increase in the number of progressive slope failures. Pore pressure response to rainfall process is a function of initial soil moisture conditions rainfall intensity, time, slope permeability and slope depth.

Installing peizometers



survive for

very long

periods of time (e.g. 10 to 20 years) and monitoring pore

water pressures over the full range of conditions (i.e. prolonged wet winter to hot dry summer) is crucial in assessing the long-term stability of slopes. The monitoring data from these pore water pressure observations can be used to assess the stability and serviceability of earth structures and prioritise them for remediation.

The experimental monitoring programme on the Loughbrickland Drumlin is providing preliminary insights into the factors influencing the groundwater flow system and the interaction between climatic conditions and pore water pressure dynamics. Rainfall events do produce pore-pressure fluctuations within the drumlin which could have an influence on the geo-mecha nical evolution and response of the excavation in the longer term.

Slope hydrologic response to precipitation is crucial for

assessing slope


increasing frequency









subsequent public safety and financial implications of slope failures, there are still many failures caused by changes in hydrogeology that still remain unanswered.

Assessing the condition of old cuttings is a vital exercise in maintaining the integrity of transport infrastructure in the UK. Climate change is expected to bring wetter winters to the UK and more ‘extreme’ weather patterns in which both summer and winter rainfall will arrive in short heavy storm events that are more likely to trigger slope failures. It would be prudent therefore for Road Authorities to arrange regular monitoring of pore water pressures in particular through prolonged wet and long dry periods


The Roads Service DRD (NI), Geotechnical Unit, Construction Service DFP (NI), Lagan Group, (White Mountain Civils). The authors acknowledge support from Keith Dickson, Kenny McDonald and Bob McClelland.


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