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Proc Math Phys Eng Sci. 2015 Mar 8;471(2175):20140772.

Significance of the actual nonlinear slope geometry for catastrophic failure in submarine landslides.

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Institute for Geotechnical Engineering , ETH Zurich, Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5 , Zurich 8093, Switzerland.
Geohazard Specialist , Gray Geophysical Limited , Norfolk, UK.
Geotechnical Discipline Lead, BP Exploration , Sunbury, UK.


A simple approach to slope stability analysis of naturally occurring, mild nonlinear slopes is proposed through extension of shear band propagation (SBP) theory. An initial weak zone appears in the steepest part of the slope where the combined action of gravity and seismic loads overcomes the degraded peak shear resistance of the soil. If the length of this steepest part is larger than the critical length, the shear band will propagate into the quasi-stable parts of the slope, where the gravitational and seismically induced shear stresses are smaller than the peak but larger than the residual shear strength of the soil. Growth of a shear band is strongly dependent on the shape of the slope, seismic parameters and the strength of soil and less dependent on the slope inclination and the sensitivity of clay. For the slope surface with faster changing inclination, the criterion is more sensitive to the changes of the parameters. Accounting for the actual nonlinear slope geometry eliminates the main challenge of the SBP approach-determination of the length of the initial weak zone, because the slope geometry can be readily obtained from submarine site investigations. It also helps to identify conditions for the early arrest of the shear band, before failure in the sliding layer or a change in loading or excess pore water pressures occurs. The difference in the size of a landslide predicted by limiting equilibrium and SBP approaches can reach orders of magnitude, potentially providing an explanation for the immense dimensions of many observed submarine landslides that may be caused by local factors acting over a limited portion of the slope.


geomorphology; shear band propagation; submarine landslides

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