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  • Created 15 Oct 2010

About the Group

Worldwide, seismically induced rock-slope failures have been responsible for approximately 30% of the most significant landslide catastrophes of the past century. They are among the most common, dangerous, and still today, least understood of all seismic hazards. Rock-slope failures differ fundamentally in two key respects from landslides in unconsolidated, soil materials: (i) rock-slope stability is controlled principally by discontinuities in the rock mass and (ii) owing to their potentially large volumes, high velocities, long travel distances, and impact forces, the consequences of rock-slope failures can be severe. These consequences routinely include burying of roadways and canals, collapse of structures, and formation of landslide debris dams.

While earthquake-induced soil landslides have been well studied, there is remarkably little fundamental research on the more common and often more significant problem of rock-slope stability under seismic conditions. The limited understanding of this topic largely relates to the challenges of interpreting these complex, large displacement landslides in order to gain a better understand the triggering processes. As a result, the current state-of-the-practice for assessing the seismic stability of rock-slopes lags behind that of soil slopes and typically involves either qualitative assessments (i.e., relative hazard assessment using descriptive parameters) or highly simplified quantitative analyses (i.e., pseudostatic methods). Neither of these approaches captures the key mechanisms driving rock-slope failure, or the consequences of failure. This research seeks to substantially advance the fundamental understanding of the rock-slope failure process under seismic conditions through a fully integrated program of physical and discrete element method numerical simulations. The resulting improved knowledge will drive the development of improved rock-slope failure assessment guidelines, analysis procedures, and predictive tools. In addition to markedly improving the basic understanding of seismic rock-slope failures, this research will drive the shift from currently employed qualitative assessment procedures to modern performance- and risk-based methodologies.

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