Landslides in partially saturated colluvium on Seattle, WA, hillslopes have resulted in property damage and human casualties. We developed statistical models of colluvium and shallow-groundwater distributions to aid landslide hazard assessments. The models were developed using a geographic information system, digital geologic maps, digital topography, subsurface exploration results, the groundwater flow modeling software VS2DI and regression analyses. Input to the colluvium model includes slope, distance to a hillslope-crest escarpment, and escarpment slope and height. We developed different statistical relations for thickness of colluvium on four landforms. Groundwater model input includes colluvium basal slope and distance from the Fraser aquifer. This distance was used to estimate hydraulic conductivity based on the assumption that addition of finer-grained material from down-section would result in lower conductivity. Colluvial groundwater is perched so we estimated its saturated thickness. We used VS2DI to establish relations between saturated thickness and the hydraulic conductivity and basal slope of the colluvium. We developed different statistical relations for three groundwater flow regimes. All model results were validated using observational data that were excluded from calibration. Eighty percent of colluvium thickness predictions were within 25% of observed values and 88% of saturated thickness predictions were within 20% of observed values. The models are based on conditions common to many areas, so our method can provide accurate results for similar regions; relations in our statistical models require calibration for new regions. Our results suggest that Seattle landslides occur in native deposits and colluvium, ultimately in response to surface-water erosion of hillstope toes. Regional groundwater conditions do not appear to strongly affect the general distribution of Seattle landslides; historical landslides were equally dispersed within and outside of the area potentially affected by regional groundwater conditions.
Additional publication details
Modeling the spatial distribution of landslide-prone colluvium and shallow groundwater on hillslopes of Seattle, WA