Sedimentological and geotechnical analyses of thirty-seven core samples from the Gulf of Cadiz continental margin were used to define the regional variability of sediment properties and to assess slope stability. Considering the sediment property data set as a whole, there is an association between grain size, plasticity and water content. Any one of these properties can be mapped regionally to provide an indication of the dominant surface sediment lithology. Based on static sediment strength, a simplified slope stability analysis showed that only steep slopes (> 16??for even the most vulnerable sediment) can fail under static loading conditions. Accordingly, transient loads, such as earthquakes or storms, are needed to cause failure on more moderate slopes. A regional seismic slope stability analysis of the Cadiz margin was performed based on detailed geotechnical testing of four gravity core samples. The results showed that the stability of these slopes under seismic loading conditions depends upon sediment density, the cyclic loading shear strength, the slope steepness, and the regional seismicity. Sediment density and cyclic loading shear strength are dependent upon water content, which can act as a proxy for plasticity and texture effects. Specifically, Sediment in the water content range of 50-56% is most vulnerable to failure under cyclic loading within the Cadiz margin. As a result, for a uniform seismicity over the region, susceptibility to failure during seismic loading conditions increases with increasing slope steepness and is higher if the sediment water content is in the 50-56% range than if it is not. The only sampled zone of failure on the continental slope contains sediment with water content in this critical range. Storm-wave-induced instability was evaluated for the continental shelf. The evaluation showed that a storm having hundreds of waves with a height in the range of 16 m might be capable of causing failure on the shelf. However, no sediment failures were observed on the shelf that might have been caused by this mechanism.
Additional publication details
Geotechnical characteristics and slope stability in the Gulf of Cadiz