Nucleation of slip-weakening rupture instability in landslides by localized increase of pore pressure

Robert C. Viesca, & James R. Rice

Published March 2012, SCEC Contribution #1527

We model landslide initiation as slip surface growth driven by local elevated pore pressure, with particular reference to submarine slides. Assuming an elastic medium and friction that weakens with slip, solutions exist in which the slip surface may dynamically grow, without further pore pressure increases, at a rate of the order of the sediment shear wave speed, a situation comparable to earthquake nucleation. The size of the rupture at this transition point depends weakly on the imposed pore pressure profile; however, the amount of slip at the transition depends strongly on whether the pore pressure was broadly or sharply elevated. Sharper profiles may result in pore pressures reaching the total slope-normal stress before dynamic rupture is nucleated. While we do not account for modes of failure other than pure slip on a failure surface, this may be an indication that additional modes involving liquefaction or hydraulic cracking may be factors in the initiation of shallow slope failure. We identify two lengthscales, one geometrical (h, depth below the free surface) and one material (l, determined by the frictional weakening rate) and a transition in nucleation behavior between effectively "deep" and "shallow" limits dependent on their ratio. Whether dynamic propagation of failure is indefinite or arresting depends largely on whether the background shear stress is closer to nominal peak or residual frictional strength. This is determined in part by background pore pressures, and to consider the submarine case we simplify a common sedimentation/consolidation approach to reflect interest in near-seafloor conditions.

Viesca, R. C., & Rice, J. R. (2012). Nucleation of slip-weakening rupture instability in landslides by localized increase of pore pressure. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 117(B3), B03104. doi: 10.1029/2011JB008866.