EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

How does anisotropy control rock slope deformation? A discrete element modelling investigation

Marius L. Huber1, Luc Scholtès2, and Jérôme Lavé1
Marius L. Huber et al.
  • 1Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques (CRPG), Université de Lorraine & CNRS, Nancy, France
  • 2Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans (LMV), Université Clermont Auvergne & CNRS & IRD & OPGC, Clermont-Ferrand, France

Deep-seated failures of rock slopes are partly controlled by structural, lithological and topographical factors. Among structural factors, layering, schistosity and foliation in rock material, which could be described as inherent anisotropy of the material, affect initiation and evolution of deep-seated rock slope deformation, especially in slow moving landslides.

In order to document such an influence of material anisotropy on slope stability, we carry out a parametric study using discrete element modelling (DEM). After a validation exercise for fully isotropic material, where we compare our numerical approach to an analytical slope stability solution, we introduce anisotropy (transverse isotropy) in our DEM model by inserting preferentially oriented and weakened bonds between discrete elements (weakness plane) to simulate two typical transverse isotropic lithologies, claystone and gneiss respectively. Considering these two lithologies, we then explore the influence of the weakness plane’s orientation with respect to the slope angle for both ridge and valley geometries.

We show that certain orientations of the weakness plane relative to the topographic slope favour deep-seated deformation. We also observe significant disparities in failure initiation, failure surface localisation, and mobilized volume depending on the weakness plane orientation. For instance, most unstable slopes occur when the weakness plane rises 10° to 30° less than the hillslope angle. These instabilities are associated with well-localized deformation at depth that when intersecting the surface mimic some of the morphological features (such as counter-slope scarps) that are commonly described along mountain ridges in association with slow-moving and deep-seated rock slope failures.

Our results help explain the appearance or absence of deep-seated failure in mountainous areas and allow to better assess slope failure hazard induced by anisotropic rock strength.

How to cite: Huber, M. L., Scholtès, L., and Lavé, J.: How does anisotropy control rock slope deformation? A discrete element modelling investigation, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-2954,, 2022.


Display file