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Assessing rockfall susceptibility in steep and overhanging slopes using three-dimensional analysis of failure mechanisms

Landslides

By:
, , , , ORCID iD , , , and
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10346-017-0911-y

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Abstract

Rockfalls strongly influence the evolution of steep rocky landscapes and represent a significant hazard in mountainous areas. Defining the most probable future rockfall source areas is of primary importance for both geomorphological investigations and hazard assessment. Thus, a need exists to understand which areas of a steep cliff are more likely to be affected by a rockfall. An important analytical gap exists between regional rockfall susceptibility studies and block-specific geomechanical calculations. Here we present methods for quantifying rockfall susceptibility at the cliff scale, which is suitable for sub-regional hazard assessment (hundreds to thousands of square meters). Our methods use three-dimensional point clouds acquired by terrestrial laser scanning to quantify the fracture patterns and compute failure mechanisms for planar, wedge, and toppling failures on vertical and overhanging rock walls. As a part of this work, we developed a rockfall susceptibility index for each type of failure mechanism according to the interaction between the discontinuities and the local cliff orientation. The susceptibility for slope parallel exfoliation-type failures, which are generally hard to identify, is partly captured by planar and toppling susceptibility indexes. We tested the methods for detecting the most susceptible rockfall source areas on two famously steep landscapes, Yosemite Valley (California, USA) and the Drus in the Mont-Blanc massif (France). Our rockfall susceptibility models show good correspondence with active rockfall sources. The methods offer new tools for investigating rockfall hazard and improving our understanding of rockfall processes.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Assessing rockfall susceptibility in steep and overhanging slopes using three-dimensional analysis of failure mechanisms
Series title:
Landslides
DOI:
10.1007/s10346-017-0911-y
Volume:
15
Issue:
5
Year Published:
2018
Language:
English
Publisher:
Springer
Contributing office(s):
Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description:
20 p.
First page:
859
Last page:
878