Rock Mass Strength Assessment and Significance to Edifice Stability, Mount Rainier and Mount Hood, Cascade Range Volcanoes
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—Catastrophic edifice and sector failure occur commonly on stratovolcanoes worldwide and in some cases leave telltale horseshoe-shaped calderas. Many of these failures are now recognised as having resulted from large-scale landsliding. These slides often transform into debris avalanches and lahars that can devastate populations downstream of the volcano. Research on these phenomena has been directed mainly at understanding avalanche mechanics and travel distances and related socioeconomic impacts. Few investigations have examined volcanic avalanche source characteristics. The focus of this paper is to 1) describe a methodology for obtaining rock strengths that control initial failure and 2) report results of rock mass strength testing from Mount Rainier and Mount Hood. Rock mass and shear strength for fresh and hydrothermally altered rocks were obtained by 1) utilizing rock strength and structural information obtained from field studies and 2) applying rock mechanics techniques common in mining and civil engineering to the edifice region. Rock mass and intact rock strength differences greatly in excess of one order of magnitude were obtained when comparing strength behavior of fresh and completely altered volcanic rock. The recognition and determination of marked strength differences existing on the volcano edifice and flank, when combined with detailed geologic mapping, can be used to quantify volcano stability assessment and improve hazard mitigation efforts.
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