Computational Geosciences

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 21–38 | Cite as

Three-dimensional numerical simulations of the Downie Slide to test the influence of shear surface geometry and heterogeneous shear zone stiffness

  • Katherine S. Kalenchuk
  • Mark S. Diederichs
  • D. Jean Hutchinson
Original Paper


Massive slow-moving landslides often exhibit deformation patterns which vary spatially across the landslide mass and temporally with changing boundary conditions. Understanding the parameters controlling this behaviour, such as heterogeneous material properties, complex landslide geometry and the distribution of groundwater, is fundamental when making informed design and hazard management decisions. This paper demonstrates that significant improvements to the geomechanical analysis of massive landslides can be achieved through rigorous, three-dimensional numerical modelling. Simulations of the Downie Slide incorporate complex shear zone geometries, multiple water tables and spatial variation of shear zone stiffness parameters to adequately reproduce real slope behaviour observed through an ongoing site monitoring program. These three-dimensional models are not hindered by shortfalls typically associated with two-dimensional analysis, for example the ability to accommodate lateral migration of material, and they out-perform more simplified three-dimensional models where bowl-shaped shear geometries are incapable of reasonably reproducing observed deformation patterns.


Landslide mechanisms Monitoring Three-dimensional numerical modelling Downie Slide 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine S. Kalenchuk
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mark S. Diederichs
    • 1
  • D. Jean Hutchinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geological Sciences and Geological EngineeringQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Mine Design EngineeringKingstonCanada

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