, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 173–180 | Cite as

Reliability of water content estimation by profile probe and its effect on slope stability

  • Lucio Di MatteoEmail author
  • Cristina Pauselli
  • Daniela Valigi
  • Maurizio Ercoli
  • Mauro Rossi
  • Giacomo Guerra
  • Costanza Cambi
  • Remo Ricco
  • Giuseppe Vinti
Technical Note


Shallow landslide failures are distributed worldwide and cause economic losses and fatalities. A proper evaluation of the possible occurrence of shallow landslides requires reliable characterization of water content. Volumetric water content (θ) is commonly estimated using dielectric sensors, which use manufacturers’ calibration curves developed for specific soil types. In this study, we present the experimental results achieved during a laboratory calibration of a capacitance probe (PR2/6 probe), tested on two sandy soils widely outcropping in Central Italy. The proposed equations demonstrate a more reliable estimation of θ with respect to the generalized soil equation provided by the manufacturer, which overestimates θ by up to 10 percentage points. Such overestimation could affect the evaluation of suction stress in partially saturated shallow soils affecting the slope stability analysis. Although the use of θ from correct calibration equations provides less precautionary factor of safety values, a reliable evaluation of the soil moisture condition is fundamental when mapping and predicting the spatial and temporal occurrence of shallow landslides. The use of the PR2/6 probe with the appropriate soil calibration equations in early warning monitoring systems will provide a more reliable forecast, minimizing the number of false alarms.


Landslides Water content PR2/6 probe Sandy soils Suction stress 



The geotechnical analyses were performed in the Laboratorio di Geologia Applicata of the University of Perugia funded in the framework of the “Ricerca di base 2014 Project–DIMBASE14.” The authors are grateful for the technical support provided by Laboratorio Preparazione Rocce e Sezioni Sottili of the University of Perugia. The authors thank also anonymous Reviewers for the constructive feedbacks on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics and GeologyUniversity of PerugiaPerugiaItaly
  2. 2.CNR IRPIPerugiaItaly
  3. 3.Istituto Sperimentale per l’Edilizia (ISTEDIL)PerugiaItaly

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