Seismic and mechanical studies of the artificially triggered rockfall at Mount Néron (French Alps, December 2011)
Abstract. The eastern limestone cliff of Mount Néron (French Alps) was the theater for two medium-size rockfalls between summer and winter 2011. On 14 August 2011, a ~2000 m3 rock compartment detached from the cliff, fell 100 m below and propagated down the slope. Although most of the fallen rocks deposited on the upper part of the slope, some blocks of about 15 m in size were stopped by a ditch and an earthen barrier after a run-out of 800 m. An unstable overhanging ~2600 m3 compartment remained attached to the cliff and was blasted on 13 December 2011. During this artificially triggered event, 7 blocks reached the same ditch, with volumes ranging from 0.8 to 12 m3. A semi-permanent seismic array located about 2.5 km from the site recorded the two events, providing a unique opportunity to understand and to compare the seismic phases generated during natural and artificially triggered rockfalls. Both events have signal duration of ~100 s with comparable maximum amplitudes recorded at large distances (computed local magnitude of 1.14 and 1.05, respectively), most of the energy lying below 20 Hz. Remote sensing techniques (photogrammetry and lidar) were employed before and after the provoked rockfall, allowing the volume and fracturing to be characterized. This event was filmed by two video cameras, and the generated ground motions were recorded using two temporary 3C seismic sensors and three seismic arrays deployed at the slope toe. Videos and seismogram processing provided estimates of the propagation velocity during the successive rockfall phases, which ranges from 12 to 30 m s−1. The main seismic phases were obtained from combined video and seismic signal analyses. The two most energetic phases are related to the ground impact of fallen material after free fall, and to individual rock block impacts into the ditch and the earthen barrier. These two phases are characterized by similar low-frequency content but show very different particle motions. The discrete element technique allowed reproducing the key features of the rockfall dynamics, yielding propagation velocities compatible with experimental observations.