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A general analytical solution for the evolution of cliffs accounting for strength degradation, seismic action, formation of tension cracks and seepage

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stefano Utili



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The evolution of natural slopes over time is ruled by several concurrent physical phenomena, namely thestrength of its component geomaterials and their weakening over time due to weathering processes, the occurrenceof seismic events, seepage and the formation of tension cracks. The paper presents analytical solutionsobtained considering a succession of discrete failure events (landslides) progressively altering theslope morphology over time. The model, derived in the framework of limit analysis assuming plane strainconditions, provides a tool for the assessment of whether manufacts and/or infrastructures located on aslope subject to various natural degradation phenomena will be affected by the occurrence of failures.Unlike current empirical and semi-empirical models of slope evolution, the analytical solution that is herepresented is derived by applying principles of soil and rock mechanics, therefore it is of general validity, sothat no ad–hoc calibration against past observations of the evolving slope is needed. This analytical techniqueonly requires knowledge of the (geotechnical) parameters characterising the geomaterials comprisingthe slope of interest, namely angle of shearing resistance, ϕ, cohesion, c, tensile strength, unit weight,together with knowledge of the relevant seepage scenarios, strength degradation processes, and seismicevents likely to occur.Results show that that earthquake loading and seepage can substantially decrease slope stability, increase thevolume of material sliding away during each landslide event and alter the evolution of the slope over time,while tensile strength exhibits a less strong influence especially as strength degradation progresses. Dimensionlessready-to-use charts are provided for the benefit of practitioners.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Voulgari C, Utili S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Engineering Geology

Year: 2017

Volume: 219

Pages: 92-106

Print publication date: 09/03/2017

Online publication date: 20/09/2016

Acceptance date: 18/09/2016

Date deposited: 08/03/2017

ISSN (print): 0013-7952

ISSN (electronic): 1872-6917

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.enggeo.2016.09.005


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