Rock Slope Failure Mechanisms and Related Hazards

Current Research Projects - S. Sepulveda

Rock slope failures are source of major hazards in both natural Cordilleran slopes and artificial slopes such as road cuts or mines. Rock slides, falls and avalanches of variable volume pose a threat to critical infrastructure and population. Their origin is linked to variable factors such as climate, seismicity, tectonics, and local geological history. We study rock slope failures by combining fieldwork and engineering geological site reconnaissance, geotechnical analyses, remote sensing data acquisition and processing using techniques such as InSAR, LiDAR or photogrammetry, and numerical modelling tools.

Catastrophic rockslides - debris flows in paraglacial environments: British Columbia and Patagonia

Paraglacial slope failures are those that are part of, or influenced by, the rock transition from glacial to non-glacial conditions. In high latitude mountain areas, paraglacial conditions may persist until now, or may have strongly influenced the stress state and rock geomechanical conditions in recent geological times, potentially inducing unstable slope conditions today. In these environments, large volume catastrophic rock slides are often originated, influenced by long-term changes in the rock mass mechanic properties and sometimes triggered by heavy rainfall, rapid snowmelt or earthquakes. The large landslides may turn into long runout rock avalanches and/or debris flows, which pose a significant hazard to local communities and infrastructure downstream. The slides have also the potential of river damming and subsequent outburst floods, and may also induce large displacement waves in lakes or fjords. Recent examples of these landslide phenomena have been observed in both hemispheres in mountain areas of British Columbia and the Chilean Patagonia. The project general goal is to expand the understanding of complex slope failure mechanisms leading to large volume landslides in paraglacial mountain environments, by identifying and characterizing those factors controlling slope instability, through the analyses and comparison of selected case studies in B.C. and Patagonia.