Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 305–314 | Cite as

Altered marine tephra deposits as potential slope failure planes?



Weathering of tephra results in increasing proportions of mechanically weak, authigenic clay minerals (smectite). This suggests that altered tephra represent inherent weak layers in slope sediment sequences, and these may facilitate slope failure in submarine and other aquatic environments. In drained direct shear experiments, tephra in different alteration stages were compared to common sand–clay mixtures for geotechnical reference. Attention is drawn to the influence of particle shape on shear strength. The results revealed volcanic ash to have (1) a high strength end-member at low alteration stages due to particle roughness and angularity and (2) a low strength end-member after complete diagenetic alteration, both under static conditions. This would suggest that strongly altered volcanic ash layers could potentially be responsible for slope failures. However, a review of ODP and IODP Expedition reports shows that advanced ash alteration mostly occurs at depths below (>800 mbsf) those commonly observed for slope failure initiation (<400 mbsf). This, in turn, suggests that volcanic ash alteration does not play an important role in the initiation of slope failure.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MARUM - Center for Marine Environmental SciencesBremenGermany

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