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  • Mass movement - (Mass Wasting)

    Is defined as the downslope movement of material under the direct influence of gravity. Most types of mass wasting are aided by weathering and usually involve surficial material. The material moves at rates ranging from almost imperceptible, as in the case of creep, to extremely fast, as in a rockfall or slide. Although water can play an important role, the relentless pull of gravity is the major force behind mass wasting. Mass wasting is an important geologic process that can occur at any time and almost any place. It is thus important to study this phenomenon because it affects all of us, no matter where we live. Although all major landslides have natural causes, many smaller ones are the result of human activity and could have been prevented or their damage minimized.

  • Factors that influence mass wasting

    When the gravitational force acting on a slope exceeds its resisting force, slope failure (mass wasting) occurs. The resisting forces that help maintain slope stability include the slope materials strength and cohesion, the amount of internal friction between grains, and any external support of the slope. These factors collectively define a slopes shear strength.

  • All slopes are in a state of dynamic equilibrium, which means that they are constantly adjusting to new conditions. Although we tend to view mass wasting as a disruptive and usually destructive event, it is one of the ways that a slope adjusts to new conditions. Whenever a building or road is constructed on a hillside, the equilibrium of that slope is affected. The slope must then adjust, perhaps by mass wasting, to this new set of conditions.

    Many factors can cause mass wasting: - A change in slope angle, Weakening of material by weathering, Increased water content, Changes in the vegetation cover, and Overloading.

  • Slope Angle Slope angle is probably the

    major cause of mass wasting. Generally speaking, the steeper the slope, the less stable it is. Therefore, steep slopes are more likely to experience mass wasting than gentle ones.

  • Weathering and Climate

    Mass wasting is more likely to occur in loose or poorly consolidated slope material than in bedrock. As soon as rock is exposed at Earths surface, weathering begins to disintegrate and decompose it, reducing its shear strength and increasing its susceptibility to mass wasting. The deeper the weathering zone extends, the greater the likelihood of some type of mass movement. Recall that some rocks are more susceptible to weathering than others and that climate plays an important role in the rate and type of weathering. In the tropics, where temperatures are high and considerable rain falls, the effects of weathering extend to depths of several tens of meters, and mass movements most commonly occur in the deep weathering zone. In arid and semiarid regions, the weathering zone is usually considerably shallower. Nevertheless, intense, localized cloudbursts can drop large quantities of water on an area in a short time. With little vegetation to absorb this water, runoff is rapid and frequently results in mudflows.

  • Water Content

    The amount of water in rock or soil influences slope stability. Large quantities of water from melting snow or heavy rainfall greatly increase the likelihood of slope failure. The additional weight that water adds to a slope can be enough to cause mass movement. Furthermore, water percolating through a slopes material helps to decrease friction between grains, contributing to a loss of cohesion. For example, slopes composed of dry clay are usually quite stable, but when wetted, they quickly lose cohesiveness and internal friction and become an unstable slurry. This occurs because clay, which can hold large quantities of water, consists of platy particles that easily slide over each other when wet. For this reason, clay beds are frequently the slippery layer along which overlying rock units slide downslope.

  • Vegetation

    Vegetation affects slope stability in several ways. By absorbing the water from a rainstorm, vegetation decreases water saturation of a slopes material that would otherwise lead to a loss of shear strength. Vegetations root system also helps stabilize a slope by binding soil particles together and holding the soil to bedrock. The removal of vegetation by either natural or human activity is a major cause of many mass movements. Summer brush and forest fires in southern California frequently leave the hillsides bare of vegetation. Fall rainstorms saturate the ground, causing mudslides that do tremendous damage and cost millions of dollars to clean up. The soils of many hillsides in New Zealand are sliding because deep-rooted native bushes have been replaced by shallow-rooted grasses used for sheep grazing. When heavy rains saturate the soil, the shallow-rooted grasses cannot hold the slope in place, and parts of it slide downhill.

  • Overloading Overloading is almost always the result of human activity and

    typically results from the dumping, filling, or piling up of material. Under natural conditions, a materials load is carried by its grain-to-grain contacts, with the friction between the grains maintaining a slope. The additional weight created by overloading increases the water pressure within the material, which in turn decreases its shear strength, thereby weakening the slope material. If enough material is added, the slope will eventually fail, sometimes with tragic consequences.

  • Geology and Slope Stability

    The relationship between the topography and the geology of an area is important in determining slope stability. If the rocks underlying a slope dip in the same direction as the slope, mass wasting is more likely to occur than if the rocks are horizontal or dip in the opposite direction. When the rocks dip in the same direction as the slope, water can percolate along the various bedding planes and decrease the cohesiveness and friction between adjacent rock units. This is particularly true when clay layers are present because clay becomes slippery when wet. Even if the rocks are horizontal or dip in a direction opposite to that of the slope, joints may dip in the same direction as the slope. Water migrating through them weathers the rock and expands these openings until the weight of the overlying rock causes it to fall.

  • Triggering Mechanisms The factors discussed thus far all

    contribute to slope instability. Most, though not all, rapid mass movements are triggered by a force that temporarily disturbs slope equilibrium. The most common triggering mechanisms are strong vibrations from earthquakes and excessive amounts of water from a winter snow melt or a heavy rainstorm. Volcanic eruptions, explosions, and even loud claps of thunder may be enough to trigger a landslide if the slope is sufficiently unstable. Many avalanches, which are rapid movements of snow and ice down steep mountain slopes, are triggered by a loud gunshot or, in rare cases, even a persons shout.

  • Types of mass wasting Mass movements are generally classified on the basis of three

    major criteria : (1) rate of movement (rapid or slow)(2) type of movement (primarily falling, sliding, or flowing)(3) type of material involved (rock, soil, or debris)

    Rapid mass movements involve a visible movement of material. Such movements usually occur quite suddenly, and the material moves quickly downslope. Rapid mass movements are potentially dangerous and frequently result in loss of life and property damage. Most rapid mass movements occur on relatively steep slopes and can involve rock, soil, or debris.

    Slow mass movements advance at an imperceptible rate and are usually detectable only by the effects of their movement, such as tilted trees and power poles or cracked foundations. Although rapid mass movements are more dramatic, slow mass movements are responsible for the downslope transport of a much greater volume of weathered material.

  • Falls Rockfalls are a common type of

    extremely rapid mass movement in which rocks of any size fall through the air. Rockfalls occur along steep canyons, cliffs, and road cuts and build up accumulations of loose rocks and rock fragments at their base called talus.

    Rockfalls result from failure along joints or bedding planes in the bedrock and are commonly triggered by natural or human undercutting of slopes, or by earthquakes. Many rockfalls in cold climates are the result of frost wedging. Chemical weathering caused by water percolating through the fissures in carbonate rocks (limestone, dolostone, and marble) is also responsible for many rockfalls.

  • Slides A slide involves movement of material along one or more surfaces

    of failure. The type of material may be soil, rock, or a combination of the two, and it may break apart during movement or remain intact. A slides rate of movement can vary from extremely slow to very rapid.

    Two types of slides are generally recognized: (1) Slumps or rotational slides, in which movement occurs along a curved surface; (2) Rock or block slides, which move along a more or less planar surface.

    A slump involves the downward movement of material along a curved surface of rupture and is characterized by the backward rotation of the slump block. Slumps usually occur in unconsolidated or weakly consolidated material and range in size from small individual sets, such as occur along stream banks, to massive, multiple sets that affect large areas and cause considerable damage.

  • A rock or block slide occurs when rocks move downslope along a more or less planar surface. Most rock slides take place because the local slopes and rock layers dip in the same direction, although they can also occur along fractures parallel to a slope.

  • Flows

    Mass movements in which material fl ows as a viscous fl uid or displays plastic movement are termed fl ows. Their rate of movement ranges from extremely slow to extremely rapid. In many cases, mass movements begin as falls, slumps, or slides and change into fl ows farther downslope.

    Of the major mass movement types, mudflows are the most fluidand move most rapidly (at speeds up to 80 km/hr). hey consist of at least 50% silt- and clay-sized material combined with a significantamount of water (up to 30%). Mudflows are common in arid and semiarid environments where they are triggered by heavy rainstorms that quickly saturate the regolith, turning it into a raging flow of mud that engulfs everything in its path. Mudflows can also occur in mountain regions and in areas covered by volcanic ash where they can be particularly destructive. Because mudflows are so fluid, they generally follow preexisting channels until the slope decreases or the channel widens, at which point they fan out.

  • Debris flows are composed of larger particles than mudflows and do not contain as much water. Consequently, they are usually more viscous than mudflows, typically do not move as rapidly, and rarely are confined to preexisting channels. Debris flows can be just as damaging, though, because they can transport large objects.

  • Earthflows move more slowly than either mudflows or debris flows. An earthflow slumps from the upper part of a hillside, leaving a scarp, and flows slowly downslope as a thick, viscous, tongue-shaped mass of wet regolith. Like mudflows and debris flows, earthflows can be of any size and are frequently destructive. They occur most commonly in humid climates on grassy, soil-covered slopes following heavy rains.

  • Some clays spontaneously liquefy and flow like water when they are disturbed. Such quick clays have caused serious damage and loss of lives in Sweden, Norway, eastern Canada, and Alaska. Quick clays are composed of fine silt and clay particles made by the grinding action of glaciers. Geologists think that these finesediments were originally deposited in a marine environment where their pore space was filled with saltwater. The ions in saltwater helped establish strong bonds between the clay particles, thus stabilizing and strengthening the clay. When the clays were subsequently uplifted above sea level, the saltwater was flushedout by fresh groundwater, reducing the effectiveness of the ionic bonds between the clay particles and thereby reducing the overall strength and cohesiveness of the clay. Consequently, when the clay is disturbed by a sudden shock or shaking, it essentially turns to a liquid and flows.

  • Solifluction is the slow downslope movement of water-saturated surface sediment. Solifluction can occur in any climate where the ground becomes saturated with water, but is most common in areas of permafrost.

  • Permafrost, ground that remains permanently frozen, covers nearly 20% of the worlds land surface. During the warmer season when the upper portion of the permafrost thaws, water and surface sediment form a soggy mass that flows by solifluction and produces a characteristic lobate topography.

  • Creep, the slowest type of flow, is the most widespread and significant mass wasting process in terms of the total amount of material moved downslope and the monetary damage it does annually. Creep involves extremely slow downhill movement of soil or rock. Although it can occur anywhere and in any climate, it is most effective and significant as a geologic agent in humid regions. Because the rate of movement is essentially imperceptible, we are frequently unaware of creeps existence until we notice its effects: tilted trees and power poles, broken streets and sidewalks, or cracked retaining walls or foundations.

    Creep usually involves the whole hillside and probably occurs, to some extent, on any weathered or soil-covered, sloping surface. Creep is not only difficult to recognize, but also to control. Although engineers can sometimes slow or stabilize creep, many times the only course of action is to simply avoid the area if at all possible or, if the zone of creep is relatively thin, design structures that can be anchored into the bedrock.

  • Complex Movements Any combination of different mass movement types is a complex

    movement.