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WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH, VOL. 36, NO.

7, PAGES 1897-1910, JULY 2000

Landslide triggering by rain infiltration


Richard M. Iverson
U.S. GeologicalSurvey,Vancouver,Washington

Abstract. Landslidingin responseto rainfall involvesphysicalprocesses that operateon


disparatetimescales.Relationshipsbetweenthesetimescalesguidedevelopmentof a
mathematicalmodel that usesreducedformsof Richardsequationto evaluateeffectsof
rainfall infiltrationon landslideoccurrence,timing, depth, and accelerationin diverse
situations.The longestpertinenttimescaleisA/D o, whereD Ois the maximumhydraulic
diffusivityof the soil and,4 is the catchmentarea that potentiallyaffectsgroundwater
pressures at a prospectivelandslideslip surfacelocationwith areal coordinates x, y and
depthH. Times greaterthan,4/D o are necessaryfor establishment of steadybackground
water pressures that developat (x, y, H) in responseto rainfall averagedoverperiods
that commonlyrangefrom daysto many decades.These steadygroundwaterpressures
influencethe propensityfor landslidingat (x, y, H), but they do not triggerslopefailure.
Failureresults
fromrainfallovera typically
shorter
timescale
H2/Doassociated
with
transientpore pressuretransmission
duringand followingstorms.Commonly,this
timescalerangesfrom minutesto months.The shortesttimescaleaffectinglandslide
responses
to rainfallisX/H/g, where# isthemagnitude
of gravitational
acceleration.
Postfailurelandslidemotion occurson this timescale,which indicatesthat the thinnest
landslidesacceleratemostquicklyif all other factorsare constant.Effectsof hydrologic
processes
on landslideprocesses
acrossthesediversetimescalesare encapsulated
by a
response
function,
R(t*) = X/t*/rr exp(-l/t*) - erfc(1/X/*), whichdepends
only
on normalizedtime, t*. Use of R (t*) in conjunctionwith topographicdata, rainfall
intensityand durationinformation,an infinite-slopefailure criterion,and Newton'ssecond
law predictsthe timing,depth,and accelerationof rainfall-triggeredlandslides.Data from
contrastinglandslidesthat exhibitrapid, shallowmotion and slow,deep-seatedmotion
corroboratethesepredictions.

1. Introduction stability analysis[Haefeli, 1948; Taylor, 1948], which relates


landslidepotentialto groundwaterpressuresin discreteland-
Landslidestriggeredby rainfall occurin most mountainous scapecells.The modelsassumethat rainfallinfluencesground-
landscapes. Someof theselandslides occursuddenlyandtravel water only by modulatingsteadyor quasi-steadywater table
manykilometersat highspeeds.Theycanposegravethreatsto heightsand that groundwaterflowsexclusively parallel to the
life and property,as demonstratedin the December 1999 di- slope.The modelsconsequently neglectslope-normalredistri-
sasterin northernVenezuela[Larsenet al., 2000].Other land- bution of groundwaterpressuresassociated with transientin-
slidesrespondslowlyto rainfall and move at imperceptible filtration of rain. This neglectis predicatedmore on expedi-
speeds,but they can dominatesedimentyieldsand landscape ence than physicalevidence;both theory and measurements
changefor years or even millennia [Swansonand Swanston, indicate that groundwater pressuresin hillslopes respond
1976].Traditionally,predictionof rainfall-triggeredlandslides stronglyto transientrainfall and that pressureredistribution
has relied mostly on recognitionof landslide-proneterrain
includesa large componentnormal to the slope[e.g.,Freeze,
[e.g., Rib and Liang, 1978; Hansen, 1984; Soetersand van 1974;IversonandMajor, 1987;Reidet al., 1988;Haneberg,1991;
Westen,1996]and identificationof rainfall intensitiesand du-
Baum and Reid, 1995;Iversonet al., 1997;Torreset al., 1998].
rationsthat causeslopesto fail [e.g.,Caine,1980;Cannonand
To assessthe effectsof transientrainfall on timing, rates,
Ellen, 1985; Wieczorek,1987]. These empirical methodsare
and locationsof landslides,I use rational approximationsto
important,but they provideno theoreticalframeworkfor un-
developa theoreticalmodel that augmentssteadyand quasi-
derstandinghow hydrologicprocesses influencethe location,
steadymodelssuchasthosedescribedabove.Analysisof Rich-
timing,andratesof landslides or for anticipatinghowlandslide
ards[1931]equationyieldsapproximations that describenear-
hazardsmightchangein response to changing climateor landuse.
surfacegroundwaterpressuresthat developin hillslopesin
Recently,theoreticalmodelshavebeendevelopedto predict
responseto rainfall over varyingperiodsof time. An approxi-
how variations in landslide susceptibilitydepend on topo-
mationvalid for long timesgovernsquasi-steady background
graphic,geologic,andhydrologic variablesandchangesin land
pressures that typicallydevelopoverperiodsrangingfrom days
use[e.g.,Sidle,1992;Montgomery andDietrich,1994;Dietrichet
al., 1995;Wu and Sidle,1995].All of thesemodelsemploythe to many decades.Thesepressuresreflectthe influenceof to-
effectivestressprinciple [Terzaghi,1925] in an infinite-slope pography,geology,and climateon slopefailure potential.An
approximationvalid for shorter times governsgroundwater
This paper is not subjectto U.S. copyright.Publishedin 2000 by the pressures that developin responseto individualrainstormsor
American GeophysicalUnion.
groupsof stormsand that triggermost dangerouslandslides.
Paper number2000WR900090. For slopesthat are initially quitewet, the short-timeapproxi-
1897
1898 IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION

to thex-y plane.Richardsequationgoverns
unsteady,
variably
saturated,Darcian flow of groundwaterin responseto rainfall
on the slope.Referencedto the coordinatesystemof Figure 1,
Richardsequationmay be written as [Bear, 1972;Hurleyand
Pantelis,1985]

Ob
Ot dO
d
_ Ox
0 K.(b0
)Jx sina +yy
K.()

Jz cos a ' (1)

in which is groundwaterpressurehead, 0 is soil volumetric


watercontent,t is time, and a is the slopeangle,0 s a < 90.
Terms can be addedto (1) to make the x andy coordinates
conformwith hillslopecuature, but suchterms are generally
small and vanish in appromations that are valid at shallow
Figure 1. Definition of the local, rectangular,Cartesianco- depths[e.g.,Hurl and Pantelis,1985]. Non-Darcian flow in
ordinatesystemusedto analyzeRichardsequation.The origin slopesis not representedby (1) but mightbe simulatedsatis-
lies on the ground surface,x is tangent to the local surface hctorily by assigningDarcian parameter values that mimic
slope,y is tangentto the local topographiccontour,and z is
non-Darcian properties.
normal to the x-y plane. The slopeangle a is measuredwith
respectto horizontal. The key Darcian parametersin (1) are the hydrauliccon-
ductivitiesin the lateral (x andy) directionsand slope-normal
(z) direction,K andK. The conductivities mayva owingto
variationsof soil propertiesor . It is convenientto define
mation reducesto a linear diffusionequation,and analytical nomaiized conductivities K* with reference to the mmum
solutionspredict how near-surfacepore water pressuresre- (saturated)conductiviW anhere withinthe flow domain,Kat,
spondto rainfallof arbitraryintensityandduration.Combina-
tion of a diffusionsolutionwith a generalizedinfinite-slope
K= *
stabilitymodel and Newton'ssecondlaw yields an equation Ksat
, K= Ksat (2)
that predictsthe timing, depth, and rate of slopefailure as a
function of rainfall intensityand duration. Comparisonsof and to relate the conductivities to hydraulicdiffusivities(D,
thesepredictionswith data from two well-documentedcases D z, Do) by
demonstratesthe utility of the model. g() gz() Ksat
Before detailing the analysesoutlined above,it is perhaps
worthwhileto emphasizethat the theory is born of compro-
= c()' = c(), = c; ' (3)
mise. The theory aims to predictvariationsin landslidesus- where C() = dO/d is the changein volumetricwater con-
ceptibilityand behaviorunder diversegeologicand hydrologic tent per unit changein pressurehead and Co is the minimum
conditions,with the caveatthat only valid approximationsand value of C(), pically obseed when the soil becomessat-
minimal data inputs are desirable.A more precise theory urated.ThusD o is the mmum characteristic diffusivi gov-
would avoid approximationsand include all details of tran- erningtransmission of pressurehead,and it therebyprovidesa
sient, variably saturatedgroundwaterflow as well as three- convenientreferencediffusiviW.
dimensional landslidegeometriesandgeologicheterogeneities Normalizationof (1) revealssomefundamentalfeaturesof
but would alsodemandextraordinarydata inputs.Conversely, hillslope responsesto rainhll [Hurley and Pantelis, 1985;
theories that disregardtransient rainfall entirely cannot ac- Haneberg,1991].In the presentcontextthe goal of normaliza-
countfor its effect on landsliding:an effect that is evidentto tion is assessment of the pore pressureresponseat depthz =
evencasualobservers.The newtheorydescribedhere includes H (measurednormalto the slope)andarealposition(x, y) as
transientrainfall effectsbut requiresonly meagerdata inputs a functionof time (Figures1 and2). eal positiondetermines
(rainfall intensityand durationand a characteristic hydraulic the extent to which rain infiltration elsewhere in the catchment
diffusivity)
in additionto thoserequiredby steadyandquasi- affectsthe pressurehead at (x, y, H). Therefore I define
steadytheories.A theorythissimplecannot,of course,predict normalized variables
all complexitiesobservedin the field. Nonetheless,it can illu-
minate rainfall effectson the timing and styleof landsliding, z x y
and it can sharpenthe focusof field investigationsand model
prognostications.
(4)
that involveo lengthscales.One scaleisH, whichappliesin
thez directionandestablishes
an appropriate
referenqe
for the
2. Analysis of Hydrologic Processes pressurehead that developsat depthH in responseto rain-
To assessthe influenceof rainfall on near-surfaceground- hll. Thelengthscale
in thex andy directions
is, where
A
water pressuresin slopes,considera local rectangularCarte- is the catcent area that might ultimatelyiuence (x, y,
siancoordinatesystemwith its origin at an arbitrarypoint on H, t) if rainhll persists.Groundwaterhydraulicsdictatesthat
the groundsurface(Figure 1). The coordinatex pointsdown A may be somewhat ambiguous,becausegroundwater can
the slope,y points tangent to the topographiccontour that crossbeneathtopographicdividesand influencepressuresup-
passesthroughthe origin, and z pointsinto the slope,normal stream as well as downstream within a flow field. To define an
IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION 1899

i sion from the area A to the point (x, y, H). The other
i
i timescale
is H2/Do, whichapproximates
the minimumtime
necessaryfor strongslope-normalpore pressuretransmission
from the ground surfaceto depth H [cf. Iversonand Major,
1987; Haneberg,1991; Reid, 1994]. Here the distinctionbe-
tween pore pressuretransmissionand water flux is relevant.
Rainwater can infiltrate the soil as a gravity-drivenslugwith
uniform water contentand zero pore water pressurebehind
the wetting front [Bear, 1972, chapter9], but pore pressure
changein a porousmediumis largelya diffusiveprocessthat
canoccurwith or withoutmuchwater flux [cf.Biot, 1941,1956;
Chandlerand Johnson,1981].
The ratioof the pressure
diffusion
timescales
H2/Do and
A/Do yields a length scale ratio e that plays a key role in
analyzingpressurehead responses to rainfall on slopes,

./H2Do_
H
= ,4z>0- (5)
If e << 1, long-termand short-termpressurehead responses at
locations(x, y, H) maybe describedadequatelyby simplified
Figure 2. Definition of the planimetriccontributingareaA forms of Richards equation. In many landscapeswith high
at two locations(x, y) in a hypotheticallandscape.Dashed potential for landslides,values e -< 0.1 apply at typical slip
linesrepresenttopographiccontours. surfacedepthsand locations(Table 1). Simplifiedforms of
Richardsequation therefore provide a rational basisfor as-
sessing landslideresponses to rainfall.
unambiguous lengthscale,it is thereforenecessaryto approx-
imateA by somereadilymeasurableproperty.
2.1. Long-Term Behavior
To establishconnectionswith previouswork [e.g.,Montgom-
eryandDietrich,1994;Dietrichet al., 1995],I approximateA by Long-termpressureheadresponses canbe assessed by iden-
the area enclosedby the upslopetopographicdivide and hy- tifyingthe appropriatedimensionless time ast* - tDo/A and
potheticalflow linesthat run normal to topographiccontours substituting this expression togetherwith (2), (3), and (4) into
and bound the region that can contributesurfacerunoff to (1). Then multiplicationof all termsbyH/Ksat and somealge-
point (x, y) (Figure 2). Unless groundwaterflow paths are braic simplificationyieldsa form of Richardsequationappro-
unusuallyaberrant, this definition of A establishesa length priatelyscaledto assess q(x,y, H, t) in responseto rainfall of
scale of thecorrect magnitude forlateraltransmission
of long duration (t > A/D o)
pore water pressureto (x, y, H).
Pore pressuretransmissionin responseto rainfall is a tran-
sientprocess,whichimpliesthat two timescales existin con-
e2C(q)0q
*= e2 0--
Co Ot* 0 [K} (0q*
Ox* 1
sin a
)]
junction
withthetwolength
scales
H andX/. Employing
the 0
referencediffusivityD0 to establisha referencetime, one time-
scalemaybe identifiedasA/Do, whichapproximates the min-
+ Oy*/] + 0 0-- cosa .
imum time necessary for stronglateralpore pressuretransmis- (6)

Table 1. CharacteristicTimescalesand TimescaleRatios for ContrastingLandslideSites


Numerical Values

Case 1 Case 2
Significance (CoosBay) (Minor Creek)
Timescale
A/Do quasi-steadygroundwaterresponsetime 1 day 300 years
H2/Do transientgroundwaterresponsetime 20 min 1 year
landslide acceleration time 0.3 s 0.8 s
T rainfallduration(example) 1 hour 4 months
Timescale ratios
0.1 0.06
T* -T/(H2/4Do) 10 1
S -(H2/4Do)/ 800 i x 107

Case1 is similarto the CoosBay, Oregon,site describedby Montgomery


et al. [1997] and Torreset al.
[1998]andassumes
H - 1 m,A 100 m2,andDo 10-3 m2/s.Case2 issimilarto theMinorCreek,
California,sitedescribed
byIverson[1984,1986]andIversonandMajor [1987]andassumes
H 6 m,A
104 m2, andDo - 10-6 m2/s.In eachcase,timescales
areevaluated
for a typicalpointnearthefailure
surface,
andfor convenience
it isassumed thatH = Z and/5 = 4D0. Numerical valuesarerounded to
one significantdigit.
1900 IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION

h = -x sin - d cos . (11b)


horizontal
Equations(11a) and(11b) indicatethat saturatedgroundwater
flow in responseto slowinfiltrationoccursonly in the x direc-
tion, driven by the head gradientOh/Ox = -sin . The asso-
ciatedgroundwaterflux abovea referencedepthz = 8 canbe
calculatedby combiningthisheadgradientwith Darcy'slawfor
flow in the x direction,yielding
Qx = b(8 - d)Kx sin a, (12)

where Qx is volumetricgroundwaterdischargein the x direc-


tion, b is the width (in the y direction)of the slopeelement
overwhichQx is measured,Kx is the saturatedhydrauliccon-
ductivityin the x direction,and 8 - d is the water table height
abovethe referencedepth 8.
Z(x,z) In utilizing(12), investigatorscommonlyinvokemasscon-
servationof groundwaterby assumingthat the flow domainis
Figure 3. Definition of the vertical coordinate Z = x sin boundedby an impermeablebed at depth8, but this approach
c + z cos cusedto calculateelevationhead or depth at an can yield self-contradictory results.To see the contradiction,
arbitrarylocation(x, y). If the Z and z coordinatessharea
first considerslowvariationof Qx in responseto slowinfiltra-
commonorigin,the coordinatetransformationZ = x sin c +
z cos csimplifiesto Z = z/cos cbecausex = z tan c. tion (Iz/Kz << cos ). In suchcircumstances, (12) can be
combinedwith the depth-averaged massconservation equation
OQx/OA+ 0(8 - d)/Ot = Iz to form a kinematicwavemodel
of slope-parallelgroundwaterflow, which appliesover long
Assuming
e << 1,termsof ordere ande2in (6) generally
may timescales(t A/Do) [cf. Beven,1981;Hurleyand Pantelis,
be neglected.Then (6) reducesto a simpleequationdescribing 1985; Wu and Sidle, 1995]. For still longer timescales(t >>
steady,near-surfacegroundwaterflow [Hurleyand Pantelis, A/Do), time dependencebecomesnegligible,and the kine-
19851 matic wave massconservationequationreducesto a steady
dischargeequationQx - I1, which can be combinedwith
Oz* Kz*0--- cos
a = e. (7) (12) to predictthe steadywatertableheightabovethe imper-
meable bed
A generalsolutionof (7) is (in dimensionalform)
/z A
= z[cos a + f(x, y)(gsat/gz)
] + c, (8) &- d= Kxbsina . (13)

where c is a constantof integrationthat dependson water Equation (13) is the steadygroundwaterflow model usedby
table depth andf is a functionthat dependson the rate and Montgomeryand Dietrich [1994] and Dietrichet al. [1995] to
spatialdistributionof long-termrain infiltration.Both c andf evaluatelandslidesusceptibility.
Corresponding pressurehead
can be evaluatedexplicitlyif appropriateboundaryconditions andtotal headdistributionsarefoundby solving(13) for d and
are specified.Patternsof groundwaterflow may be inferred combiningthe resultwith (11a) and (lib). The resultingequa-
from (8) by combiningit with the definitionof total head h, tions
which yields
/zA
h = - Z = -x sin a + zf(x, y)(Ksat/gz)q-c, (9) = (z- 8)cos
a +xx
- cota, (14a)
where the elevation head Z = x sin a + z cos a is measured
/zA
vertically downwardfrom a horizontal reference plane that
passesthroughthe originon the groundsurface(Figure 3). h=-xsina-Scosa+xx-COta (14b)
Somespecialcasesof (8) and (9) warrantparticularatten-
reveal a paradox.If Iz/Kx --> 0, (14a) predictsnegativepres-
tion owingto their frequentusein applications.For example,
sureheadsat depthsz < 8, whichcontradictthe positivewater
if the long-termaverageinfiltrationrate in the z directionat
table heightsgivenby (13), yet the assumption Iz/K z --> e is
the groundsurfaceIz is specifiedby a constantflux boundary
necessaryto derive both (13) and (14a). To eliminatethis
conditionIz = -Kz(Oh/Oz), and if the soil is homogenous,
paradox,one must assumestronglyanisotropicconductivity,
then the pressurehead and total head below the water table
Kz >> Kx (whichyieldsIz/Kx >> Iz/Kz), a conditionnot
(where = 0) obey[cf. Iverson,1990]
typicalof many slopes.
= (z- a)[cos .- (UKz)], (lea) In summary,equationsfor steady,slope-parallelgroundwa-
ter flowabovean impermeable bed(e.g.,equations(13), (14a),
h = -x sin a - d cosa - (z - d)(Iz/Kz), (10b) and (14b)) can predict groundwaterpressuresproducedby
where d is the water table depth measurednormal to the rainfall only if four conditionsare satisfied:(1) The rainfall
groundsurface.If infiltrationis sufficientlyslowthat Iz/Kz << durationisverylong(t >> A/Do) , (2) the depthH isrelatively
cos, (lea) and (10b) reducefurther to formsthat describe small(e << 1), (3) the rainfallintensityis verylow (Iz/Kz <<
slope-parallelgroundwaterflow cosa), and (4) the slope-normal componentof hydrauliccon-
ductivitygreatlyexceedsthe slope-parallelcomponent(Kz >>
= (z- d) cosa, (11a) Kx). Typicallytheseconditionsdo not exist.ThereforeI use
IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION 1901

more generalequations(suchas (10a) and (10b)) and alter- kinematicwaveequation,obtainedby employingthe chainrule
nativeapproximations (valid for short-term,transientrainfall) OK*z/OZ*= (dK*z/d*)(O*/OZ*)andrearranging
termsto
to assesshydrologicconditionsthat trigger landslides. yield
0*
2.2. Short-Term Behavior
at* + r o-;= 0, (20)
Short-termpiezometricresponsesto rainfall canbe assessed
by identifyingthe appropriatedimensionlesstime as t* - where
tDo/H2 andsubstituting
thisexpression
together
with(2), (3),
and(4) into (1). Then multiplication
of all termsbyH/gsat and Iz Co dK*
somealgebraicsimplificationyieldsa form of Richardsequa- P= cos
2aKzC($)d$* (21)
tion appropriatelyscaledto assess (x, y, H, t) in responseto
rainfall of shortduration(t << A/Do) is the normalized kinematic wave speed.The simplestnon-
trivial solutionof (20)

CoOt*= e2O--;-KL
* Ox* e sina * = Ft* - Z* (22)

predictsnegativepressureheadswhereZ* > Pt* and positive


+e'a--;
K ay*/ + a- K*a-cos. . pressureheadswhere Z* < Pt*. Consequently,Z* = Pt*
definesthe location of a saturatedwetting front that moves
downwardat the kinematicwavespeed.As notedby Smithand
Hebbert[1983],kinematicwavemodelsof infiltrationdescribe
Assuming e << 1,termsofordere ande2in (15)generally may propagationof pistonwettingfrontssimilarto that conceived
be neglected.Then (15) reducesto an equationdescribing
in GreenandAmpt's [1911] model of infiltration.
near-surfacegroundwaterflow in the z direction
A measureof the relativeefficacyof pistonfront wettingand
pore pressurediffusionduring infiltration is providedby the
Coat*= az* Kz*a-;--cos
a . (16)
ratio K of the normalizedkinematicwavespeedin (21) to the
normalizeddiffusivityin (19)
This equationmay be expressedin terms of a verticalcoordi-
nateZ* = x* sin a + z* cosa (definedaspositivedownward Iz H dKz
as in Figure 3) as = Kz Kzde' (23)
This expression
for g can alsobe obtainedby writing (19) and
Coat*= cs2
a o--;K*O-
- 1 , (17) (21) in dimensionalform and dividingthe timescalefor pore
pressurediffusionby the timescalefor kinematicwavepropa-
which is the standardRichardsequation for vertical infiltra- gation.Smallvaluesof g indicatethe primacyof diffusionand
tion, written in a normalized form that accountsfor the effect
applymostcommonlywhen soilsare relativelywet initially [cf.
of the surfaceslope a. This equationgovernstransientpres- Van Genuchten,19.80].To analyzeconditionsmostprevalent
sureheadresponses at depthsthat are relativelyshallow(e << when rainfall triggerslandslides,I focuson wet initial condi-
1) and timesthat are relativelyshort(t << A/Do) , but non- tionsand assumethat g << 1 andequation(19) applies.How-
linearityof the equationmakesit difficultto solveanalytically. ever,(20) maybe a better approximationif soilsare dry before
Analysisis facilitatedby consideringlimitingformsof (17) rainfall commences.
that describepressurehead responses in soilsthat are initially For wet initial conditionsI assumeK z Ksat,C Co, and
either quite wet or quite dry. These limiting forms can be that (19) consequently reducesto the approximation(in di-
identifiedby differentiatingthe termsin bracketsin (17) and mensionalform) [cf.Eagleson,1970,pp. 291-295]
usingthe definitionof total head h - - Z in conjunction
with Darcy's law for vertical flow in responseto infiltration, oq, 0"
I z = -Kz(Oh/OZ ), to rewrite (17) in a form that contains at = Docos 2a oZ2. (24)
distinctgravityflux and pressurediffusiontermson the right-
hand side Linearity of (24) allowssuperposition of solutions.Thus to
evaluate pressurehead responsesto complicatedrainfall se-

C()0* [K*;
CoOt*= cs2a 02* IzOZ*
KzOKz*
1' (18) quenceswith varyingintensitiesand irregular durations,it is
necessaryonly to obtain a fundamentalsolutionof (24) that
describesthe response(Z, t) to rainfallof fixedintensityand
Equation (18) indicatesthat if soilsare sufficientlywet that
duration and to sum a seriesof responses.
g z --->Ksat and C() --> Co, the gravityflux term involving
An appropriatefundamentalsolutionof (24) obeysthe ini-
Iz/K z can be neglected,yielding a pressurehead diffusion
tial and boundaryconditions
equation
q,(z, o)= (z- dz)t, (25a)
0* CoKe*cos 2a 02*
at = C() aZ'2' (19)
inwhichthenormalized
diffusivity
is(CoK*z
cos
2a)/C (). On OZ(' t)=/3, (25b)
the otherhand,if soilsare sufficiently
dry thatKz << Ksat (i.e.,
K*z-->0), thediffusion
termin (18) canbeneglected,
andonly t<T

the gravityflux term can be retained.Then (18) reducesto a 0


(0t)={-Iz/Kz
OZ ' +13t > T, (25c)
1902 IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION

Initial (
Pressure
Distribution
-I- Rainfall
Input X
Response
Function ) =
Transient
Pressure
Distribution

Figure 4. Schematicof rainfall input and pressurehead responseas describedby equations(25a)-(25c),


(26a)-(26c),and (27a)-(27e).

whereT is the rainfalldurationandthe initial condition(25a) Significantsimplificationof (26a) and (26b) resultsfrom
assumesa steadystate pressurehead distributionlike that normalizationwith respectto Z. Divisionof all termsin (26a)
givenin (10a). This distributionis convenientlyexpressed in and (26b) by Z yields
terms of a steadywater table depth dz (measuredin the Z
Iz
direction),
andaconstant/,
where/= cos
2a - (Iz/Kz)steady.
Here(Iz/Kz)steady
= (Iz/Kz)cosa istheZ component
ofthe
Z(Zt<T)=/3(1
- a/z)
-- +zz
[R(t*)],
(27a)

normalizedsteadystatewater table rechargerate that appears Iz


in (10a);typically,
(Iz/Kz)steady
ismuchsmaller
thanthenor- (Z,t > T)= /3(1- d/Z)+zz[R(t*)- R(t*- T*)],
malizedtransientrainfall infiltrationrate Iz/Kz. Simplerex-
(27b)
pressions
for/ canbe employedfor specialsteadystatessuch
as thosewith hydrostaticpressures(/ = 1) or slope-parallel in which
groundwater
flow(/3 = cos
2 12).In general,however,
these t
simplifications need not apply. t* = Z2/D ' (27c)
The constant/3 also appearsin the boundaryconditions
(25b) and (25c). The lower boundarycondition(25b) states T
that at great depthsbelow the water table, transientvertical T* = Z2/D (27d)
groundwaterflux decaysto zero and steady state pressures
described by (10a)persist.The upperboundarycondition(25c) are normalized times and
statesthat Darcy'slaw governswater entry at the groundsur-
face (Z = 0), wheresteady,backgroundinfiltrationratesare R(t*) = x//x exp(-l/t*) - erfc(1/*) (27e)
determinedby/3 andtransient,short-terminfiltrationratesare
is a pressurehead responsefunction,which dependsonly on
I z if t -< T and are zero if t > T. The conditionI z/K z = 1 normalized time.
defines the maximum infiltration rate. If rainfall intensities
Equations(27a)-(27e) indicatethat calculationof ground-
exceedthis rate, the surplusrainfall runs off as Horton over-
land flow. water pressureheadsat all depthsZ and all timest* requires
onlyknowledgeof the pressureheadresponsefunctionR (t*)
The solutionof the initial boundaryvalueproblemposedby
and three additionalkinds of information:an initial (steady
(24) and (25a)-(25c) canbe obtainedby generalizingan anal-
state) pressurehead distribution(givenby (10a) and repre-
ogousheat conductionsolutiondescribedby Carslawand Jae-
sentedby the first term on the right-handsidesof (27a) and
ger [1959,pp. 75-76], yielding
(27b)) and a normalizedrainfallintensityIz/Kz and duration
(Z, t -< T) = (Z - a)/3 T* (Figure4). This economyof informationrequirements and
computationaldemandsmakesrapid applicationof (27a)-
Iz 1/2 (27e) overbroadregionsfeasible.
(26a)
2.3. Hydrologic Responses
(Z,t>T)= (Z,t-<T)
Figures5 and 6 illustratekey featuresof the pressurehead
_ Z2 response functionR(t*) for t* -< T* andR(t*) - R(t* - T*) for
Kz rt exp(1)(t-T)') t* > T*. Figure 5 depictsgraphsof the functionfor three
rainfall durationsthat spana rangeof greatpracticalinterest,
T* = 0.1, 1, and10.(Forexample,
if Z = 2 m andb = 10-4
Z2 1/2] (26b) m2/s,thesedurations correspond
to ---1,10, and100hours.)
For all rainfall durationsthe responseremainscloseto zero
in which
until aboutt* = 0.2, then increasessmoothlyand continuesto
0 = 4D0cos
2 12 (26c) increaseuntil briefly after rainfall ceases(as a resultof pres-
sureheadredistribution)
andpeaksat a valueRpeak
at time
* After peaking,the response
is an effectivehydraulicdiffusivityand erfc is the complemen- t peak' graduallydeclinesandas-
tary error function.Equation(26a) applieswhile rainfallcon- ymptoticallyapproacheszero. For rainfall durationsT* -< 1,
tinues(t -< T), whereas(26b)appliesafterrainfallstops(t > T). responsesexhibit a nearly constantshapeand time to peak,
IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION 1903

t peak
2, andresponse
magnitudes
varyin almostexactpro- 1000 I I I

portionto T* (Figures5a and5b). For rainfalldurationsT* > o


1, peak responses occursoonerafter rainfall ceasesand have
somewhat smallermagnitudes relativeto T* (Figures5b and5c). n,' 100
Figure 6 illustrateshow the peakingbehaviordepictedin
Figure 5 varies as a function of rainfall duration T*. The
curvesin Figure 6 demonstratethat a systematicchangein fl. 10-
peaking behavior occursbetween T* = 1 and T* = 10
(compareFigure5). This changereflectstrade-offsbetween
e I -
pressureheadpropagationand attenuationthat occurasrain- E
fall input becomeslessabruptand more continuous.For rain-
fall inputslongerthanT* -- 10, Rpeakapproaches
T*/20 0.1-
(Figure6).Thisunboundedgrowth ofRpeakwithgrowth
of T*
demonstratesthat transientpressurediffusionsolutionspro-
videunrealisticpredictionsof long-term(approximatelysteady ....

N 0.01-
state) pressureheadsthat developin responseto persistent
E
rainfall.Steadystatepressureheadsare describedbetterby an
equationsuchas (10a). z
o o.ool
o.ool 0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000
Figures7 and 8 showexamplesof pressurehead distribu-
tionspredictedby (27a)-(27e) for two well-documented land- Normalized Rainfall Duration, T*
slideswith contrasting
soil,slope,andrainfallproperties(sum-
Figure 6. Graphs of the peaking behavior of the pressure
headresponsefunction(Figure5) for a wide rangeof normal-
I -- I I I izedrainfalldurations.
Graphs
of thetimeto peak(t peak)
and
0.012 magnitude of thepeakresponse
(Rpeak)wereconstructed by
evaluating
R (t*) - R (t* - T*) for a rangeof T*.

0.008

marizedin Table 2). Together,Figures7 and 8 illustratethe


R profoundinfluenceof hydraulicdiffusivityand rainfall inten-
0.004
sity and duration on transientpressurehead responsesthat
maytriggerslopefailure. Figures7 and 8 alsodemonstratethat
0.000 ! , , , the fastestand largestpressurehead responsesalwaysoccur
near the groundsurface,with more subduedand delayedre-
I I sponsesat depth. After rainfall ceases,pressureheadsslowly
0.12 T*=1.0 t* B _ relaxto near-steadystategradientsbut, for a longtime, remain
elevatedabovethoseof the initial steadystate(as dictatedby
the slowlydecliningtail of the responsefunction shownin
0.08 Figure5).
Figure 7 illustratespressureheadresponses typicalof Minor
R Creek landslide, a seasonallyactive, slow-moving,clay-rich
landslidein northern California [Iverson,1984, 1986]. The
landslideslopes15, hastypicalsaturatedhydraulicconductiv-
ities--5x 10-8 m/sandhydraulic
diffusivities
"10-6 m2/s,and
0.00 I I
commonlyreceives--2 m of rainfall distributedthroughouta
I
six-monthrainyseason[IversonandMajor, 1987].The average
wetseason
rainfallrate(-1 x 10-7 m/s)exceeds
typicalsat-
1.2 T*= 10 ' cl urated conductivities,so that Iz/Kz = 1. Although most of
the landslidesoil remainsnearly saturatedyear-round,pore
water pressuresmeasuredin the basalshearzone of the land-
0.8
slide(at 5-6 m depth)respondsignificantly to seasonal rainfall
cyclesbut respondnegligiblyto rainfallcyclesof lessthan a few
R monthsduration.As a consequence, the landslideaccelerates
0.4 -
each wet seasonbut does not acceleratemeasurablyin re-
sponseto even the most intenseindividual storms[Iverson,
0.0 1984;Iversonand Major, 1987]. The predictionsof Figure 7
0.1 I 10 lOO lOOO mimicthe hydrologicbehaviorat Minor Creek landslideunder
Normalized Time, t* circumstances in which(1) an initial steadystatewater table
existsat 2 m depth (similarto the observeddry seasonwater
Figure 5. Graphsof the pressurehead responsefunctionR table),(2)D O= 10-6 m2/s,(3)Iz/K z = 1, and(4) rainfallof
for three normalized rainfall durations T* = 0.1, 1, and 10. two differentdurations(10 daysand 12weeks)occurs.Figure
GraphsdepictR (t*) for t* -< T* andR (t*) - R (t* - T* ) 7a demonstratesthat pressureheadsat the landslidebase(5-6
for t* > T*. m depth) respondnegligiblyto the 10 day rainfall input,
1904 IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION

from steady state gradients.This behavior is similar to that


T = 10days A observedby Iversonet al. [1997] and Reid et al. [1997] in
I . moderate-intensityrainfall experiments.In contrast,higher-
I '. intensityrainfall(Figure8b) causespositivepressureheadsto
developquite suddenly(at about t - 6 min) and almost
simultaneously at a rangeof depths.This behavioris similarto
that inferred by Reid et al. [1997] for high-intensityrainfall
experimentsand by Torreset al. [1998]for the CoosBay field
C3 4 ....... Ix,, % site listed in Table 1, and it mimicsbehavior producedby
----t:6days I , '.
rainfall on tension-saturated soil [Gillham,1984].
5 .... t: Odays I '
Figures7b and 8b also showthat pressureheadspredicted
6
for the shallowestdepthscan eventuallyrise to unrealistically
high levels.Thesepressureheadsexceedvaluesdenotedby a
"/3"line,whichindicatesmaximumpressureheadssustainable
with a water table at the groundsurfaceand the steady,back-
ground,
verticalflowcomponents
(Iz/Kz)steady
listedin Table
2. Predictionof unrealisticpressureheadsat shallowdepths
resultsfrom the constantflux boundarycondition(25c) and
lack of a gravitydrainageterm in the linear pressurediffusion
model(24). For the analyses of landslidingdescribedin section
3, pressurehead predictionsfor shallowdepthsare restricted
by specifyingthat pressureheadscannotexceedthosegivenby
the /3 line, = Z/3 (compareequations(25a)-(25c) and
Figures7 and 8). This restrictionis rather ad hoc but is nec-
essarywhenusinga linearmodelandconstantfluxboundaryto
-2 -1 0 I 2 3 4 5 approximatethe nonlineareffectsof rainfall infiltration.
PressureHead (m)
0.0
Figure 7. Pressurehead responsespredicted by equations
(27a)-(27e) for conditionsrepresentative of the clay-richMi-
nor Creek landslide[IversonandMajor, 1987]for a normalized
rainfall intensityIz/K z = 1 and contrastingrainfall durations 0.2
(a) T = 10 daysand(b) T = 12 weeks.Pressureheadsabove
the /3 line are physicallyunrealisticand can be amendedto
equalZ/3.
-Iz/K
z:0.5"\ ' -
....... t=2min ". '

whereasFigure7b demonstrates that responses to the 12week .... t = 10min I X.. 'x 2..
rainfallinputare considerable at thisdepth.Predictedpressure 0.6

headsat the landslidebaseultimatelyincreaseby --1 m, similar --


-- t=20min
i ...,\'X
' "q x \
-
to the observedpressurehead changesthat trigger seasonal
0.0
landslidemotion [Iversonand Major, 1987].
Figure 8 illustratesmuch faster pressurehead responses
predictedfor landslideexperimentslike those describedby
Iversonet al. [1997]andReid et al. [1997].Theseexperiments 0.2
involveapplicationof artificialrainfall to rectilinearprismsof
6 m3 of soilplacedbehinda 65-cm-high
retaining
wallona 31
concrete-linedslope.In someof theseexperimentsthe soil is t=0
prewettedby applicationof low-intensityrainfallto raisemois- ....... t=2min
ture contentsto near-saturationlevelswithout producingpos- t= 6 min
itive pressureheads[Reidet al., 1997, experiments2 and 3]. .... t = 10 min
0.6 t = 20 min
Higher-intensityrainfall (at ratesof 180-400 mrn) is then
usedto elevategroundwaterpressuresand trigger slopefail- i i \x k
ure.A looseloamysandusedin recent(1998)versions of these -0.6 -0.4 -0.2 0.0 0.2
experiments
hasKsa
t 10-4 m/sandDo " 10-3 m2/sasit
approachessaturation(Table 2). Thusrainfall at ratesof 180 PressureHead (rn)
and 400 mrn correspondsto Iz/Kz 0.5 and Iz/Kz 1,
Figure 8. Pressurehead responsespredicted by equations
respectively.
ForD O= 10-3 m2/sanda rainfalldurationT =
(27a)-(27e) for conditions representative of sandyloamland-
10 min, Figure8 demonstrates that pressureheadresponses to slide experimentssimilar to thosereported by Iversonet al.
thesetwo rainfallintensitiesexhibitdifferingstylesof behavior. [1997]andReidet al. [1997]for a rainfalldurationT = 10 min
Lowerintensityrainfall(Figure8a) causesgradualwatertable and contrasting rainfall intensities(a) Iz/Kz = 0.5 and (b)
accretionfrom the bottom up, and pressurehead gradients Iz/K z = 1. Pressureheadsabovethe /3 line are physically
both aboveand below the water table deviaterelativelylittle unrealisticand can be amendedto equalZ/3.
IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION 1905

Table 2. Slope,Soil, and Rainfall PropertiesUsed to Generate Figures7, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 13
Property,Symbol,and Unit Minor Creek Landslide LandslideExperiment,June 23, 1998

Slopeproperties
Slopeangle(a), deg 15 31
Landslidedepth,vertical(Z), m 6 0.4
Steadystatewater table depth,vertical(dz), m 2 0.7 (concretebed depth)
Steadystateverticalwaterinflux(Iz/gz)steady 0.1 0
Soil properties
Soil composition in situ gravelyclay reconstitutedloamysand
Frictionangle(q0),deg 18 (residual) 38 (peak)
Cohesion(c), Pa 4000 500
Soilunitweight,wet (%), N/m3 22,000 19,000
Porewaterunitweight(7w), N/m3 9800 9800
Hydraulicconductivity
(Ksat), m/s 5 X 10-8 1 X 10-4
Hydraulic
diffusivity
(Do), m2/s 1 x 10-6 1 X 10-3
Rainfall properties
Rainfall intensity,vertical(Iz), m/s I X 10-7 (6 cm/week) 5 x 10-5 (18cm/hour),
1 x 10-4 (40cm/h)
Rainfall duration(T), s 864,000(10 days),7,257,600(12 weeks) 600 (10 min)
Normalizedproperties
Normalizedinfiltrationrate, vertical(Iz/Kz) 1 0.5, 1
Normalizedrainfall duration(T*) 0.09, 0.8 11
S (equation(33b)) 1.2 x 107 270

More detaileddescriptions of the two landslidescenariossummarizedhere are providedby Iverson[1984, 1986],Iversonand Major [1987],
Iversonet al. [1997],andReid et al. [1997].

3. Analysis of Landslide Processes the prospectiveslip surfacedepth and L is the prospective


landslidelength or width. The assumptionH << L is also
Landslidinginvolvestwo basicphenomena,slopefailure and
compatiblewith the assumption << 1 used to developthe
postfailuremotion,whichI analyzesequentially. Both analyses
Richardsequationapproximations (7) and (16) of groundwa-
assumethat groundwaterflow establishedover times longer
ter flow in slopes.A relatedidiosyncracyof infinite-slopeanal-
thanA/D o producesa steady,backgroundpressurehead dis-
ysesresultsfrom the need to specifya maximum plausible
tributionCo(x, y, Z) describedby an equationsuchas (10a).
failure depthH. Without thisspecification no boundexistsfor
In addition,the analysesconsiderthe effectsof transientpres-
landslidethickness.Commonly,a practicalupperboundfor H
sure heads(whichchangeover times much lessthan A/Do)
can be identifiedon the basisof geologicalstratification in
due to infiltratingrain. Thesepressurechangesare assumedto
which strongrock underliesa weaker overburden.
obey(27a)-(27e) andto influenceboth slopefailureandpost-
failure motion. Incipientfailureof infiniteslopesis describedby an equation
that balancesthe downslopecomponentof gravitationaldriv-
3.1. Slope Failure ing stressagainstthe resistingstressdue to basal Coulomb
To evaluatethe potential for slopefailure at diverseloca- friction (mediatedby pore water pressure).Failure occursat
tionswithin a landscape,I usea one-dimensional infinite-slope depthZ (measuredverticallyfrom the origin suchthat Z =
stabilityanalysis,which neglectsall forcesnot resolvableon z/cos a = x sin a + z cosa; Figures3 and 9) if at that depth
planesthat parallelthe groundsurface(Figure9). An infinite- FS = Ff + Fw+ Fc = 1, (28a)
slopegeometryis a rigorous,lowest-orderapproximationof a
multidimensionallandslidegeometryif H << L, where H is where the dimensionless "factorof safety"FS hascomponents
[Iverson,1991]
tan qo
Ff= tana ' (28b)
dz
-(Z, t)?w tan qo
l
l
F= %Zsinacosa
' (28c)
I l
I I
c

= (28d)
Fc %Zsinacos
a
water
and q0is the soil friction angle,c is the soil cohesion,?s is the
flow
depth-averagedsoil unit weight, and 7w is the unit weight of
groundwater.Equations(28a)-(28d) avoidthe assumption of
slope-parallelgroundwaterflow, which is unnecessary and in-
appropriateif significantrainfall infiltration occurs[Iverson,
Figure 9. Schematicillustratingthe infinite-slopemodel of 1990,1991].Instead,the pressureheaddistribution(Z, t) in
slopestability,which assumesno variationof any quantityin (28c) determinesgroundwatereffectson slopestability.The
the x directionor the directionnormal to the page. positionof the water table is irrelevantmechanically(except
1906 IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION

with transientgroundwaterpressureheadspredictsfactorsof
safetyat all depthsZ. The depthZ that first yieldsFS = 1
determinesthe depth of landsliding,which may vary in re-
sponseto different rainfall inputs.
Figures10 and 11 depictfactorsof safetyFS(Z, t) calcu-
latedfrom (29a)-(29c)usingthe pressure headconditions de-
picted in Figures 7b and 8b (amendedto restrict pressure
headsto valuesno higherthanthe/3 line).Table2 summarizes
4 {......-
/
" \t=4weeks-
!/ //., t= 8 wks
the soil mechanicsparametersusedfor eachcalculation(de-
rivedfrom independentmeasurements reportedbyIversonand
Major [1987] and Iversonet al. [1997]).The resultsshownin
Figures10 and 11 illustratethe greatrangeof conditionsthat
can lead to rainfall-triggeredlandsliding.Not only does the
timing of landslidingillustratedin the two figuresdiffer by
0.9 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 manyordersof magnitude,but the styleof the rainfalltrigger
differs as well.
Factorof Safety, FS Figure 10 predictsthat seasonalmotion of Minor Creek
Figure 10. Factorsof safetypredictedby equations(29a)- landslideresultsfrom slowpressureheadincreasesand grad-
(29c) usingthe pressurehead distributions
for Minor Creek ual water table accretion,as describedby Iversonand Major
landslidedepictedin Figure7b (T = 12 weeks,Iz/Kz = 1) [1987].The conditionFS = 1 is satisfiedfirstat the landslide
in combinationwith soilmechanicsparameterssummarizedin base (-6 m depth) and slowlyspreadsupward.Factorsof
Table 2.
safetydo not drop muchbelow 1, however:a conditionthat
favorsslowlandslidemotionif soilresistanceincreasesslightly
with increasingdeformation.
insofaras it might subtlyinfluence%) if the pressurehead In contrast,Figure11 predictsthat duringintenserainfallon
distribution is known. prewettedsandysoils,slopefailure can resultfrom positive
When rainfalloccurs,the factorof safetydefinedby (28a)- pressureheadsthat developfirstnearthe groundsurfaceand
(28d)variesas a functionof depthandtime, andit is conve- spreadrapidlydownward.Scenarios like that shownin Figure
nientto splitthe factorof safetyinto a time-varyingcomponent 11 favorabrupttriggeringof shallowlandslides asdescribedby
FS' and steadybackgroundcomponentFSo, as envisagedby Reidet al. [1997],ratherthan deeper-seated landslidingdueto
Terzaghi[1950], water table accretion.

FS(Z, t) = FSo(Z) + FS' (Z, t), (29a) 3.2. Postfailure Motion

0(Z)?wtan qo Postfailuremovementof a translatinglandslidemassde-


= - (29b)
FSo(Z)Fs+ Fc ?sZ sinacos a' pends, in part, on soilpropertiesthatmaycausedeformingsoil
to progressively weakenor strengthen[Leroueiland Marques,
[(g, t) - 0(g)]?wtan qo 1996]. However,the interplayof subsurface hydrologyand
FS'(Z,t)= - ?sZ sinacos a . (29c)landslideinertia alsoplaysa role, whichis the focushere. For
a landslideof arbitrarythickness Z the effectof inertiacanbe
If the steady,backgroundpressureheaddistributionCo(Z) is
known(e.g.,fromequations (10a) and(10b)),andif appropri-
ate valuesof the slopeand soilparametersa, qo,c, 7s, ?w are
0.0
known,then the backgroundfactor of safetyFSo can be cal-
culatedfor every depth Z. Suchcalculationsfollow the con-
ventionsof typicalsteadystateanalyses of slopestability.
The time-varyingcomponentof the factor of safetyat every 0.2
depth Z is obtainedby combining(29c) with (27a)-(27e),
whichyields
?w tan qo Iz
FS' (Z, t) =
?s sin a cos a Kz

[R(t*)]
R(t*- T*)] t*
[R(t*)- t*-<
> T*
T*. (30) 0.6-

Equation(30) demonstrates that FS' (Z, t) dependson only 1


three dimensionless variables(time t*, rainfall durationT*, 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
and rainfallintensityIz/Kz) in additionto the soil and slope
parametersthat determinethe steady,backgroundfactor of Factorof Safety, FS
safetyFS o. Thereforeto accountfor transientrainfall effects, Figure 11. Factorsof safetypredictedby equations(29a)-
the only informationthat must be added to a steadystate (29c) usingthe pressurehead distributionsfor sandysoil
analysis is the rainfallintensityanddurationandthe timescale landslideexperimentsdepictedin Figure 8b (T = 10 min,
Z2/1).Moreover, it isunnecessary to specifythedepthofslope Iz/K z = 1) in combinationwith soil mechanicsparameters
failure, becausethe analysisof failure mechanicscombined summarized in Table 2.
IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION 1907

evaluatedby modifying(28a)-(28d) to accountfor the accel- 2.0 I I


erationterm in Newton'ssecondlaw, yieldingan equationof
motion [cf. Iversonet al., 1997] data
ldv
---= sin a[1 - FS(Z, t)], (31)
# dt

where v is downslopelandslidevelocityand# is the magnitude


of gravitationalacceleration.Of course,equation(31) applies > 0.5
only after FS(Z, t) < 1 is satisfied.The equationcan be
generalized to account for internal deformation [Iverson, 'o 0.0
1997], but translationalslidingrather than internal deforma-
tion is the presentfocus.
-0.5
By combining(29a)-(29c), (30), and (31) the landslideequa- 0 10 20 630 640 650 660
tion of motion can be written in a form that separatesthe
steadybackgroundfactor of safetyFSo(Z) from the time- Time Since Rainfall Onset, t (s)
varyingcomponentFS'(Z, t). Then expressing FS'(Z, t) in
Figure 13. Measured and predicted velocity histories for
terms of the responsefunctionR yields
landslideexperiment,June 23, 1998,whichwasvery similarto
1 dv 3'wtan qoIz the high-intensityrainfall experimentdescribedby Reid et al.
[1997] but used a finer-grainedsoil. Predictionswere gener-
# dt= sinall - FSo(Z)]
+ %cos
aKz ated by numericalintegrationof equation(33a) usingFSo =
t* -<T* 2, Iz/Kz = 1 and other parameter values summarizedin

.{JR(t*)]
JR(t*) - R(t* - T*)] t* > T*, (32)
Table 2.

which appliesonly after the right-hand side exceeds0. The


where
right-handsidecannotexceed0 under steadystatehydrologic
conditions,becausethe firstterm on the right-handsideof (32) Z2/j) Z3/2g 1/2
is alwaysnegativeand the secondterm is zero at steadystate.
Solutionof (32) alsorequiresan initial conditionfor landslide S= Zx/- /) (33b)
velocity,typicallyv = 0 at t = 0. is the ratio of the pore pressurediffusion timescaleto the
Before solutionsof (32) can be generated,an important landslide acceleration
timescaleV/#. Fortypical valuesofZ
timescalediscrepancy mustbe rectified.Time variableson the (> 1 m) and/) (<10-2 m2/s), S exceeds 100,indicatingthat
right-handsideof (32) are normalizedby the diffusiontime- landslideaccelerationcan occurmuchmore rapidlythan pore
scale Z2/1),whereas theleft-hand sideof (32)involves dimen- pressurediffusion.
sionaltime t. To eliminatethis discrepancy, I definethe nor- The contrastin timescalesdenotedby largevaluesof S has
malized landslide velocity
asv* = v/V# andrewrite(32)as importantimplicationsfor computingsolutionsof (33a). Al-
dv* 7w tan q>Iz though(33a) can be integratednumericallyusinga standard
techniquesuchas Simpson'srule, normalizedtime stepsAt*
dt-
-= Ssina[1- FSo(Z)
] + S%cos
aKz mustbe very small(zXt* << l/S) to resolvelandslidemotion
accurately.This constraintimpliesthat time stepsmust be
[R(t*)]
[R(t*)-R(t*- T*)] t*> T*, t*-<T* (33a) extraordinarilysmallrelativeto the timescalefor pore pressure
diffusion.Fortunately,the analyticalexpressionon the right-
handsideof (33a) obviatesiterativecomputationof pore pres-
100x10 -9 surediffusion,andnumericalintegrations usingSimpson's rule
to find v* (t*) proceedvery rapidly.
E 80x10-9 Figures 12 and 13 comparepredictionsof the timing and
speedof landslidemotionobtainedfrom (33a) with landslide
:: 60x10 ' surfacevelocitydata obtainedusingrecordingextensometers.
...,.

o The figuresdemonstratethat greatlydifferingtimescalesand


40x10
- velocityscalescan typify motion of landslides.
Figure 12 depictsconditionsat Minor Creek landslidedur-
..
m 20x10. ing the onset of wet seasonmotion that began November 1,
1983[Iverson,1984].Soilmoisturestorageduringthe unusually
wet year that precededNovember 1, 1983, was sufficientto
maintain the landslide in an almost saturated state and to
-20x10 -
200,000 400,000 600,000 maintainFS very closeto 1 at the landslidebase(6 m depth)
[Iversonand Major, 1987]. Consequently,model calculations
Time Since RainfallOnset, t (s) assumethat FSo = 1 when persistentseasonalrainfall begins
Figure 12. Measuredand predictedvelocityhistoriesfor Mi- (Figure 10). Landslideresponsesto this rainfall are gradual
nor Creek landslide in November 1983. Measurements were rather than abrupt. Both theory and measurementsindicate
describedby Iverson [1984]. Predictionswere generatedby thatlandslide
accelerations
occurontimescales
of days(---10
s
numerical integration of equation (33a) using FSo = 1, s) after motion commences.Theory predictsthe timing of
Iz/Kz = 1, andotherparametervaluessummarizedin Table 2. landslidemotion reasonablywell, and it predictsvelocitiesof
1908 IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION

I 0.05 2.5 becausecohesivebondsbreak duringfailure and poresin the


looselypackedsoilcontractduringfailure,transientlyelevating
03 0.04
- FS porewaterpressures andreducingfrictionalresistance[Iverson
o 2.0 et al., 1997]. Both contractileweakeningof loose soils and
03 0.03 dilatanthardeningof densesoilscanbe incorporatedin mod-
elsof landslidemotion,at the expenseof additionalcomplexity
-0 0.02 -1.503
and data requirements.
failure
.c: 0.01

03 0.00
1.0
4. Discussion
Figure 14 summarizesrelationships betweenthe hydrologic
I I I I and landslideprocessesdescribedabovefor two archetypical
13. -0.01 0.5
cases.The figure juxtaposescurvesthat show how pressure
2.5 headresponses R (t*) and factorsof safetyFS coevolvewhen
I:Z: 0.05 I I I

rainfallof normalizeddurationT* = 1 triggersdifferentstyles


of landslides.
03 0.04 -
o _

2.0 Shallow,rapid landslidescommonlyoccurunder conditions


03 0.03- similarto thosedepictedin Figure 14a. Suchlandslidescom-
monly involve thin, sandysoilson steep slopes,which yield
'o 0.02 - 1.5 03 small slip surfacedepths (Z) and large effectivehydraulic
o diffusivities
(). As a consequence, normalized
time(t* =
..c: 0.01 - FS o tl)/Z 2) grows rapidlyoncerainfallcommences,
andpressure
R 1.0 head responses R(t*) quicklyreach a stagewhere they rise
03 0.00 steeply(after t* 0.3 in Figure14). Efficientdrainageof the
slope produceslarge FS values before rainfall commences
I I I
13. -0.01 0.5 (FSo = 2 in Figure 14a), but duringintenserainfall,FS can
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
decline rapidly owing to the steep pressurehead increase.
Normalized Time, t* Slopefailure occursabruptlyduringrapid declineof FS, with
rapid postfailureacceleration.
Figure 14. Relationshipsbetweenpressurehead responses
In contrast,slow-movinglandslidescommonlyoccurunder
(summarizedby R), factorsof safety(FS), and normalized
time in contrastinglandslides.Figures 14a and 14b both as- conditions similarto thosedepictedin Figure 14b. Suchland-
sume that rainfall of normalized duration T* = 1 and fixed slidestypicallyinvolvethick, relativelyfine-grainedsoilsthat
intensitybeginsat t* = 0, but then assumethat contrasting yieldlargeslipsurfacedepths(Z) andsmalleffectivehydraulic
slopeand soilpropertiesproducesignificantdifferencesin the diffusivities (/)). As a consequence, normalized time(t* =
initial factor of safetyand growthof normalizedtime: Slope tD/Z2) proceeds slowly afterrainfallcommences, andpres-
failure occursduringrapid changesin R andFS (Figure 14a); sureheadresponses R (t*) longremainconfinedto the region
Slopefailure occursduringgradualchangesin R andFS (Fig- wheretheychangeverysubtly(prior to t* 0.3 in Figure14).
ure 14b). Slow drainageof the slopetendsto hold factorsof safetynot
far above1 duringsteadystateconditions(assumingthe slope
is potentiallyunstable),andrainfallchangesthissituationonly
the correct order of magnitude,but it predictsaccelerations moderately.Thus if slopefailure occurs,it occursgraduallyin
that are somewhattoo large.The discrepancy betweentheory responseto slightchangesin the balanceof forces.
and data mightresultfrom rate-dependentresistance(due to The "rapid" and "slow"landslidescharacterizedaboverep-
pore dilation and consequentstrainhardeningor due to rate- resentarchetypes,but intermediatecasesare obviouslypossi-
dependentfriction),which are not includedin the model [cf. ble. Nonetheless,distinctionsbetweenrapid and slow land-
Iverson,1986]. slides are important owing to differing implications for
Figure 13 depictsvelocitiesmeasuredduring an artificial landscape changeandhazards.Rapidlandslides canposemor-
landslideexperiment(June23, 1998),whichcontrastsharply tal dangers,whereasslowlandslidesdestroypropertybut sel-
with velocitiesat Minor Creek landslide.In thisexperimentthe dom cause fatalities.
sandysoil was prewettedto raise moisturecontentsto near-
saturationlevels,but pressureheads at all depthsremained
5. Conclusions
negativeduringprewetting,and the factor of safetyremained
high(-2) at the prospective failuredepthof 0.4 m (Figure11). Landslideresponsesto rainfall involvetransientprocesses
ConsequentlyFSo = 2 was used in (33a) to computethe with different intrinsic timescales. A new model of these tran-
timing and velocityof failure. Figure 13 demonstratesthat the sient processeslinks slope failure and landslidemotion to
theory predictsthe timing of failure remarkablywell, and it groundwaterpressureheadsthat changein responseto rain-
correctlypredictsthe abrupt and rapid characterof failure. fall. The model requireslittle informationin addition to that
However,the theoryerrsby underpredictingthe landslideac- requiredby steadystatemodels.New informationneedscon-
celeration:an error oppositeto that whicharisesin predicting sist of a hydraulicdiffusivityDo, rainfall intensityIz, and
Minor Creek landslide's acceleration. In the case of the June rainfalldurationT (or a sequence of intensitiesanddurations).
23, 1998, landslideexperiment,underpredictionof accelera- The parsimonyof theserequirementsresultsfrom use of five
tion probablyresultsfrom undrainedloadingand strainweak- simplifyingassumptions: (1) The prospectivelandslidethick-
eningof the soil duringslopefailure. Strainweakeningoccurs ness(H or Z), is much smallerthan the squareroot of the
IVERSON: LANDSLIDE TRIGGERING BY RAIN INFILTRATION 1909

upslopegroundwatercontributingareaA, so that e << 1. (2) poroussolid,I, Low-frequencyrange,J. Acoust.Soc.Am., 28, 168-


178, 1956.
The rainfall durationT that triggersslopefailure is muchless
Caine,N., The rainfall intensity-duration
controlof shallowlandslides
than the steadystate groundwaterresponsetime at the pro- and debrisflows,Geogr.Ann., Ser.A, 62, 23-27, 1980.
spectivelandslidelocation,so that T << A/D o. (3) The hy- Cannon, S. H., and S. Ellen, Rainfall conditions for abundant debris
draulicdiffusivityD Ovariesnegligibly,whichimpliesthat soils avalanches
in the SanFranciscoBay region,California,Calif. Geol.,
are relatively wet before landslide-triggeringrainfall com- 38, 267-272, 1985.
mences.(4) Landslidemechanicscan be representedade- Carslaw,H. S., and J. C. Jaeger,Conductionof Heat in Solids,Oxford
Univ. Press,New York, 1959.
quatelyby an "infinite-slope"force balancethat neglectsall Chandler,R. N., and D. L. Johnson,The equivalenceof quasi-static
forcesnot resolvableon planesthat parallel the ground sur- flow in fluid-saturatedporousmedia and Biot's slow wave in the
face.(5) Soil strengthdependson constantCoulombparame- limit of zero frequency,J. Appl. Phys.,52, 3391-3395, 1981.
ters, friction angle q, and cohesionc. Dietrich, W. E., R. Reiss, M.-L. Hsu, and D. R. Montgomery,A
Under these assumptions,landslidingtriggeredby rainfall process-based modelfor colluvialsoildepthand shallowlandsliding
usingdigital elevationdata, Hydrol.Processes, 9, 383-400, 1995.
obeyssimplealgebraicequationscastin termsof a normalized Eagleson,P.S., DynamicHydrology, 462 pp., McGraw-Hill, New York,
rainfall intensity Iz/Kz and responsefunction R(t*) - 1970.
X//vr exp(-I/t*) - erfc(1///*) thatdepends
onlyon Freeze, R. A., Streamflowgeneration,Rev. Geophys.,12, 627-647,
1974.
normalized
timet* - tDo/Z2. Thisfunction
predicts
pressure
head responses to rainfall,which,in turn, governslopefailure Gillham, R. W., The capillaryfringe and its effect upon water-table
response, J. Hydrol.,67, 307-324, 1984.
and postfailurelandslidemotion. Green,W. H., andG. A. Ampt, Studieson soilphysics, part I, The flow
In somecases,pressurehead growthand slopefailure can of air and water throughsoils,J. Agric.Sci., 4, 1-24, 1911.
occurrather abruptlyin responseto intenserainfall, and land- Haefeli, R., The stabilityof slopesactedupon by parallel seepage,
slidescan acceleratecatastrophically. Suchbehavioris typical Proc.Int. Conf. SoilMech.Found.Eng., 1, 57-62, 1948.
Haneberg,W. C., Observationand analysisof pore pressurefluctua-
whereshallowsoils(with smallZ) havehighdiffusivities (Do).
tionsin a thin colluviumlandslidecomplexnear Cincinnati,Ohio,
In suchcases,normalizedtime proceedsrapidly after rainfall Eng. Geol., 31, 159-184, 1991.
commences,and the pressurehead responsefunctionR rises Hansen,A., Landslidehazard analysis,in SlopeInstability,edited by
quickly. D. Brunsdenand D. B. Prior, pp. 523-604, JohnWiley, New York,
1984.
In contrast,locationssuchas Minor Creek landslide(with
Hurley, D. G., and G. Pantelis, Unsaturated and saturated flow
thick soil and low hydraulicdiffusivity)favor slowlandsliding. througha thin porouslayer on a hillslope,WaterResour.Res.,21,
In thesecases,normalizedtime proceedsslowly,and the pres- 821-824, 1985.
sure head responsefunctionrisesalmostimperceptiblyfor a Iverson,R. M., Unsteady,nonuniformlandslidemotion:Theory and
long time, even under sustainedrainfall of high intensity.If measurement,Ph.D. dissertation,303 pp., StanfordUniv., Stanford,
landslidingoccurs,it occursgradually,with prolongedacceler- Calif., 1984.
Iverson, R. M., Dynamics of slow landslides:A theory for time-
ation precedingany catastrophicmovement. dependentbehavior,in HillslopeProcesses, edited by A.D. Abra-
The model developedhere predictskey aspectsof the be- hams,pp. 297-317, Allen and Unwin, Winchester,Mass., 1986.
havior of "fast" and "slow"landslides,but it neglectsfactors Iverson,R. M., Groundwaterflow fields in infinite slopes,Geotech-
that can be important.In particular,it neglectssoil strength nique,40, 139-143, 1990.
evolution,such as that due to contractilestrain weakening, Iverson,R. M., Sensitivityof stabilityanalysesto groundwaterdata, in
Landslides (Proceedingsof theSixthInternationalSymposium), edited
dilatant strainhardening,and fabric development,and it ne- by D. H. Bell, pp. 451-457, Balkema,Rotterdam,Neth., 1991.
glectsmechanicaleffectsof three-dimensional landslidegeom- Iverson,R. M., The physicsof debrisflows,Rev.Geophys., 35, 245-296,
etries.Despite theseshortcomings the model addsrealismto 1997.

currentmodelsthat predictlandslidingas a functionof steady Iverson,R. M., and J. J. Major, Rainfall, groundwaterflow, and sea-
sonal motion at Minor Creek landslide, northwestern California:
statehydrology,and it doessowith a minimum of added data
Physicalinterpretationof empiricalrelations,Geol. Soc.Am. Bull.,
requirements.The model alsoprovidesinformationfor assess- 99, 579 -594, 1987.
ing ratesof postfailurelandslidemotion,therebyrefininghaz- Iverson, R. M., M. E. Reid, and R. G. LaHusen, Debris flow mobili-
ard forecasts. zation from landslides,Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 25, 85-138,
1997.
Larsen, M. C., M. T. Vfisquez Conde, and R. A. Clark, Landslide
Acknowledgments.Discussions with Mark Reid helped motivate hazardsassociated with flash-floods,with examplesfrom the De-
thiswork. Commentsby Mark Reid, Alan Howard, Gerald Wieczorek, cember, 1999 disasterin Venezuela,in Copingwith Flash Floods,
and StephenLancasterhelped improve the manuscript.Landslide editedby E. Gruntfestand J. Handmer,NATO ASI Ser.,in press,
experiments at the USGS debrisflow flumebenefittedfrom the par- 2000.
ticipationof manypeople,especiallyRichardLaHusen,MatthewLo- Leroueil, S., and M. E. S. Marques,Importanceof strain rate and
gan, Mark Reid, Dianne Brien, Neal Iverson,and Janet Mann. temperatureeffectsin geotechnicalengineering,in Measuringand
ModelingTimeDependentSoilBehavior,editedby T. C. Sheahanand
V. N. Kaliakin, pp. 1-60, Am. Soc.of Civ. Eng., New York, 1996.
Montgomery,D. R., andW. E. Dietrich,A physicallybasedmodelfor
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