Landslide stability: Role of rainfall-induced, laterally propagating, pore-pressure waves

Environmental & Engineering Geoscience
By: , and 



The Johnson Creek Landslide is a translational slide in seaward-dipping Miocene siltstone and sandstone (Astoria Formation) and an overlying Quaternary marine terrace deposit. The basal slide plane slopes sub-parallel to the dip of the Miocene rocks, except beneath the back-tilted toe block, where it slopes inland. Rainfall events raise pore-water pressure in the basal shear zone in the form of pulses of water pressure traveling laterally from the headwall graben down the axis of the slide at rates of 1-6 m/hr. Infiltration of meteoric water and vertical pressure transmission through the unsaturated zone has been measured at ~50 mm/hr. Infiltration and vertical pressure transmission were too slow to directly raise head at the basal shear zone prior to landslide movement. Only at the headwall graben was the saturated zone shallow enough for rainfall events to trigger lateral pulses of water pressure through the saturated zone. When pressure levels in the basal shear zone exceeded thresholds defined in this paper, the slide began slow, creeping movement as an intact block. As pressures exceeded thresholds for movement in more of the slide mass, movement accelerated, and differential displacement between internal slide blocks became more pronounced. Rainfall-induced pore-pressure waves are probably a common landslide trigger wherever effective hydraulic conductivity is high and the saturated zone is located near the surface in some part of a slide. An ancillary finding is apparently greater accuracy of grouted piezometers relative to those in sand packs for measurement of pore pressures at the installed depth.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Landslide stability: Role of rainfall-induced, laterally propagating, pore-pressure waves
Series title Environmental & Engineering Geoscience
DOI 10.2113/gseegeosci.17.4.315
Volume 17
Issue 4
Year Published 2011
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Environmental and Engineering Geoscience
First page 315
Last page 335