Slope failures in Northern Vermont, USA

Environmental & Engineering Geoscience

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Rockfalls and debris avalanches from steep hillslopes in northern Vermont are a continuing hazard for motorists, mountain climbers, and hikers. Huge blocks of massive schist and gneiss can reach the valley floor intact, whereas others may trigger debris avalanches on their downward travel. Block movement is facilitated by major joints both parallel and perpendicular to the glacially over-steepened valley walls. The slope failures occur most frequently in early spring, accompanying freeze/thaw cycles, and in the summer, following heavy rains. The study reported here began in August 1986 and ended in June 1989. Manual and automated measurements of temperature and displacement were made at two locations on opposing valley walls. Both cyclic-reversible and permanent displacements occurred during the 13-month monitoring period. The measurements indicate that freeze/thaw mechanisms produce small irreversible incremental movements, averaging 0.53 mm/yr, that displace massive blocks and produce rockfalls. The initial freeze/thaw weakening of the rock mass also makes slopes more susceptible to attrition by water, and heavy rains have triggered rockfalls and consequent debris flows and avalanches. Temperature changes on the rock surface produced time-dependent cyclic displacements of the rock blocks that were not instantaneous but lagged behind the temperature changes. Statistical analyses of the data were used to produce models of cyclic time-dependent rock block behavior. Predictions based solely on temperature changes gave poor results. A model using time and temperature and incorporating the lag effect predicts block displacement more accurately.

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Slope failures in Northern Vermont, USA
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Environmental & Engineering Geoscience
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Environmental and Engineering Geoscience
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