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Natural Hazards

tsunamis earthquakes

hurricanes volcanoes

Slope Instabilities
and Landslides
Slope Instabilities and Landslides
Most widespread of Natural Hazard
• Global Reach
 affects coastal and inland locations
 urban and rural populations

• involves Mass Wasting

movement of surface materials due to gravity
continually sculpts Earth's landscapes
not restricted to specific land areas

• operates continually in rock, soil, ice/snow

gradual build up
slow to instantaneous movements
Slope Instabilities I
driving vs. resisting force Force diagram
Fs vs. Fn
(Fcrit vs. Rf crit)

driving force (Fs = Fcrit)


driving stress: σs = Fs/A

other factors slope-parallel component of

excess loading block weight / block area

role of water: increases loading and reduces cohesion

Slope Instabilities II
shear stress

resisting forces:

Resisting stress
Shear (yield) strength = shear strength of slip surface under no
normal stress + frictional resistance (which depends on Fn!)
τs = c + (Fn tan φ)/A
c = cohesion; Fn = σ = normal stress
Tape sticks to a vertical wall because of cohesion
Dry sand has virtually no cohesion
tan φ = coefficient of friction
Angle of repose
steepest slope at which loose material will sit without
cascading down and depends on:
particle shape size and size distribution (sorting),
packing and moisture content of material

Angle of repose Angle of repose depends on

increases as size of amount of moisture between
particles increases particles
Causes I
• often initiated by other hazards
1. saturation by water (pore pressure; lubrication)
heavy rains and rain following drought
2. over steepening of slopes
erosion by streams, waves (tsunamis), glaciers
3. freeze and thaw cycles
4. earthquakes
shaking and vibrations
5. volcanic eruptions
 steep slopes (landslides), loose debris (lahars),
Causes II

• more frequently initiated by human activity

road cuts
loading of slope
water leakage
drawdown of reservoirs
skiing (snow avalanches)
General types of mass movements

1. expansion: movement through volume change

2. fall: material moves through air, lands at base of slope
3. slide: material moves in contact with underlying surface
4. flow: materials breaks up and moves as a viscous fluid
Expansion: expansive soils and solifluction

expansive soils

Fall: rock-fall and topple (talus slope)
moves through air, lands at base of slope - rapid process

Rock-fall (Utah) topple (Antarctica)

Slide: rockslide, slump and landslide
material moves in contact with underlying surface as
cohesive blocks of material with no internal shearing

Block Slide
Rotational Translational


1906, Frank, Alberta,

over in 2 minutes,
buried a whole town
Slide Hazards
Rockslides - most common on steep slopes (roadcuts, valleys)
velocities of 100+ miles per hour
Slumps - sliding of material along curved surface common in
unconsolidated sediments, weaker rock units
Landslide - moves rapidly as unit or series of units along plane
material moves until Fn exceeds Fs

Landslides and Earthquakes

• 1971 San Fernando quake 100's of billions of dollars
Caused 1000+ landslides in damages and l00's of
thousands of deaths and
• 1994 Northridge quake
Caused 9000+ slides
Flow: creep, mud/debris flow; debris avalanche
materials breaks up and moves as a viscous fluid ; has no distinct basal
plane and velocity is greatest at upper surface
wettest, driest, fastest and slowest types of landslides
falls & slides can undergo transitions to flows

mud flow


Debris flow
debris avalanche
very slow movement of soil down slope tell-tale indicators
most important in terms of total volume
initiation by: freeze-thaw cycles, wetting-drying cycles,
biological displacement
mud and debris flows
rapid movement of soil and water; water = ~ 30% total
volume (mudflows); lahars, flash floods


El Salvador
mud and debris flows

Construction: Coal slide tragedy

• In Aberfan, South Wales
– October 21, 1966
– Pile of debris from coal mine
• called a tip (was unconsolidated)
• which had been weakened by rain
– Slid 1 km
• thru cottages, over a canal, then
into Pantglas Junior High School
• killed 144 people, 116 school kids
debris avalanche
unconsolidated debris moves rapidly down slope; highest
velocities; semi-circular head and debris tongue or fan

Blackhawk Alaska

Socampa Volcano, Chile (7000 years ago)

major collapse produced a massive debris avalanche (500 km2) due to
large uplift thrust fault. Smaller fragments flowed rather than sliding
Submarine debris avalanches - Hawaii

Among the largest known mass wasting events in the solarsystem

Nuuanu debris avalanche
Volume: ~5,000 km3; Length: 235 km; Run-up height at distal end: 300m+
Minimum speed at base of Hawaiian Deep:
v= 2gh = 2(10)(300)m/sec = 80m/sec = 280km/hr

Landslide potential maps - identify

slide prone areas distribution and
characteristics of past landslides
identify potentially unstable slopes

Susceptibility: the probable degree

of response of rocks and soils to
natural or artificial cutting or
loading of slopes, or to extreme
Low (<1.5% of area)
Moderate (1.5%-15% of area)
High (>15% of area)

Moderate (low incidence)
High (low incidence)
High (moderate incidence)
Prevention, and Mitigation

1. slope drainage: interceptor drains - concrete lined drains which

capture runoff and transport it away from slope perforated pipe -
driven into slope to collect water and drain it away from slope wells
driven into slopes - wells pumped to remove water rapidly

2. slope reduction: reduce slope by grading or excavate terraces or

benches into slope

3. engineering structures
seal crevices: prevents frost wedging
retaining walls with drains: stabilize base of slope
rock bolts: steel rods in cement stabilize inclined layers
rockfalls: cable nets & wire fences, intercept ditches or berms
landslides: rock sheds and tunnels

Steep scar to
rotational failure