, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 495–510 | Cite as

Geomechanical assessment of the Corvara earthflow through numerical modelling and inverse analysis

  • W. Schädler
  • L. Borgatti
  • A. Corsini
  • J. Meier
  • F. Ronchetti
  • T. Schanz
Original Paper


This research proposes a conceptual approach for analysis and numerical modelling of the hydromechanical behaviour of large landslides, applied to one of the source areas of the Corvara earthflow (Dolomites, Italy). The approach consists of two steps: forward calculation and inverse analysis. For the forward calculations, the geological model of the slope considering several shear zones delimitating landslide units was developed, based on a detailed dataset of field investigation and monitoring data. A viscoplastic constitutive model was used to describe the time-dependent material behaviour, i.e. the creep, of the shear zones. The transient distribution of pore water pressure in the slope was considered by means of an additional purely hydrogeological model. These results were used as averaged hydraulic boundary conditions in the calculation of stress and deformation fields with the continuum finite element method (FEM). The numerical model was then calibrated against ground surface displacement rates measured by D-GPS, by iteratively varying the material parameters of the shear zones. For this task, an inverse analysis concept was applied, based on statistical analyses and an evolutionary optimisation algorithm. The inverse modelling strategy was further applied to gather statistical information on model behaviour, on the sensitivity of model parameters and on the quality of the obtained calibration. Results show that the calibrated model was able to appropriately simulate the displacement field of the earthflow and allow the requirements, difficulties and problems, as well as the advantages and benefits of the proposed numerical modelling concept to be highlighted.


Finite element method Numerical modelling Corvara earthflow Dolomites Italy 



The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Ateneo Italo-Tedesco are acknowledged for funding a VIGONI 2006–2007 exchange project. DAAD granted a short research period to L. Borgatti in 2013 which was useful to finalise the paper. Six anonymous reviewers and the editor are acknowledged for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Schädler
    • 1
  • L. Borgatti
    • 2
  • A. Corsini
    • 3
  • J. Meier
    • 4
  • F. Ronchetti
    • 3
  • T. Schanz
    • 5
  1. 1.WPW Geoconsult Südwest GmbHMannheimGermany
  2. 2.Department of Civil, Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering DICAMALMA MATER STUDIORUM University of BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Chemical and Geological Sciences DSCGUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Geotechnical EngineeringGruner AGBaselSwitzerland
  5. 5.Foundation Engineering, Soil and Rock Mechanics, Faculty of Civil and Environmental EngineeringRuhr-Universität BochumBochumGermany

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