Research Paper

Acta Geotechnica

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 261-269

First online:

Multiphysics hillslope processes triggering landslides

  • Ronaldo I. BorjaAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University Email author 
  • , Xiaoyu LiuAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University
  • , Joshua A. WhiteAffiliated withComputational Geosciences Group, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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In 1996, a portion of a highly instrumented experimental catchment in the Oregon coast range failed as a large debris flow from heavy rain. For the first time, we quantify the 3-D multiphysical aspects that triggered this event, including the coupled sediment deformation-fluid flow processes responsible for mobilizing the slope failure. Our analysis is based on a hydromechanical continuum model that accounts for the loss of sediment strength due to increased saturation as well as the frictional drag exerted by the moving fluid. Our studies highlight the dominant role that bedrock topography and rainfall history played in defining the failure mechanism, as indicated by the location of the scarp zone that was accurately predicted by our 3-D continuum model.


Hillslopes Landslides Multiphysics Slope stability Unsaturated soil