Articles | Volume 9, issue 5
15 Oct 2009
 | 15 Oct 2009

Flow-type failures in fine-grained soils: an important aspect in landslide hazard analysis

T. W. J. van Asch and J.-P. Malet

Abstract. Forecasting the possibility of flow-type failures within a slow-moving landslide mass is rarely taken into account in quantitative hazard assessments. Therefore, this paper focuses on the potential transition of sliding blocks (slumps) into flow-like processes due to the generation of excess pore water pressure in undrained conditions. The generation of excess pore water pressure may be the consequence of deformation of the landslide body during motion. Two model concepts are proposed and discussed. The first concept is the so called strain concept model where emphasis is laid on strain changes due to differential movement within the moving mass. This may create zones of compression and dilation and consequently excess pore water pressures. The second concept is the so called topographical concept model which focuses on changes in the stress field of the landslide caused by geometric changes in topography of the moving body. Both models were tested on two slumps which developed in secondary scarps of the Super-Sauze mudslide in the Barcelonnette Basin (South French Alps). The slump which developed in 1999 showed complete fluidization; all the material was removed from the source area and transformed into a mudflow. The second slump, dated from 2006, did not show fluidization; it has a relative short displacement and all the material remained in the source area. It appeared that the strain concept model predicted flow-type failure for both slumps, after relative short displacements, while the topographical concept model predicted only flow-type failure for the 1999 slump and not for the 2006 slump. The strain concept model seems too conservative in forecasting the fluidization potential of slumping blocks.