Natural Hazards

, Volume 74, Issue 3, pp 1667–1682 | Cite as

Thaw-induced slope failures and susceptibility mapping in permafrost regions of the Qinghai–Tibet Engineering Corridor, China

  • Fujun NiuEmail author
  • Jing Luo
  • Zhanju Lin
  • Minhao Liu
  • Guoan Yin
Original Paper


With recent climatic warming and enhanced human activities, slope failures related to permafrost degradation are widespread along the Qinghai–Tibet Engineering Corridor. Assessment and mapping of the slope failures are necessary to mitigate hazards and plan engineering activities. According to our field investigations, the occurrence of slope failures is mainly controlled by the slope gradient, ground-ice content, permafrost temperatures, surficial deposits, and slope aspect. Modeling conducted in ArcGIS™ was used to produce a slope failure susceptibility map for a representative region along the Qinghai–Tibet Railway from Wudaoliang to Fenghuo Mountain Pass. The study region was divided into four classes based on slope failure susceptibility: (1) unlikely, (2) low, (3) moderate, and (4) high. Areas classified as unlikely accounted for 10.76 % of the study region, while low susceptibility areas comprised 44.51 %. The moderate and high susceptibility zones comprised 21.79 and 22.94 %, respectively. The actual distribution of slope failures in the region was consistent with the modeled results, which demonstrates the utility of the assessment method for future hazard management and engineering planning.


Permafrost Slope failure Susceptibility assessment Qinghai–Tibet Plateau 



This work was supported by the Western Project Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-XB3-19), State Key Program for Basic Research of China (Grant No. 2012CB026101), National Sci-Tech Support Plan (2014BAG05B05), and National Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41030741 and 41121061). The authors also extend their appreciation to Mr. Brendan O’Neill for his help in English editing, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


  1. Allard M, Fortier R, O Gagnon (2002) Problems of the development of the village of Salluit, Nunavik. Interim report 1. Inventory and compilation of all the polls and geotechnical studies; record of the field campaign in 2002. Report submitted to the department of Public Safety of Quebec (in French)Google Scholar
  2. Aller L, Bennett T, Lehr JH, Petty R. Hackett G (1987) DRASTIC: a standardized system for evaluating ground water pollution potential using hydrogeologic settings. EPA Report-600/2/87-035, National Water Well Association, OhioGoogle Scholar
  3. Burn CR, Lewkowicz AG (1990) Retrogressive thaw slumps. Can Geogr 34:273–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carter LD, Galloway JP (1981) Earth flows along Henry Creek, northern Alaska. Arctic 34:325–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cheng GD (1984) Problems on zonation of high-altitude permafrost. Acta Geogr Sin 39(2):185–193 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  6. Dai FC, Lee CF, Li J (2001) Assessment of landslide susceptibility on the natural terrain of Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Environ Geol 40(3):381–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davies MCR, Hamza O, Harris C (2001) The effect of rise in mean annual temperature on the stability of rock slopes containing ice-filled discontinuities. Permafr Periglac 12(1):137–144Google Scholar
  8. Dyke LD (2000) Stability of permafrost slope in the Mackenzie Valley. Phys Environ Mackenzie Vall N WT Baseline Assess Environ Change 547:161–169Google Scholar
  9. Ercanoglu M, Gokceoglu C (2002) Assessment of landslide susceptibility for a landslide-prone area (north of Yenice, NW Turkey) by fuzzy approach. Environ Geol 41(6):720–730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Haeberli W (1992) Construction, environmental problems and natural hazards in periglacial mountain belts. Permafr Periglac 3:111–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Haeberli W, Wegmann M, Vonder Mühll D (1997) Slope stability problems related to glacier shrinkage and permafrost degradation in the Alps. Eclogae Geol Helv 90:407–414Google Scholar
  12. Harris C (2005) Climate change, mountain permafrost degradation and geotechnical hazard: global change and mountain regions. Springer, Netherlands, pp 215–224Google Scholar
  13. Harris C, Davies MCR, Etzelmüller B (2001) The assessment of potential geotechnical hazards associated with mountain permafrost in a warming global climate. Permafr Periglac 12(1):145–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jakob M (2000) The impacts of logging on landslide activity at Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. Catena 38:279–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jiang L, Wang LJ, Zhang XF (2007) Classification of frost heave for subgrade sand soil of highways in seasonal frost regions. J Eng Geol 15(5):639–645 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  16. Jin DW, Sun JF, Fu SL (2005) Discussion on landslides hazard mechanism of two kinds of low angle slope in permafrost region of Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. Rock Soil Mech 26(5):774–778 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  17. Jin HJ, Zhao L, Wang SL, Jin R (2006) Thermal regimes and degradation modes of permafrost along the Qinghai–Tibet Highway. Sci China 49(D11):1170–1183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jin HJ, Yu QH, Wang SL (2008) Changes in permafrost environments along the Qinghai–Tibet Engineering Corridor induced by anthropogenic activities and climate warming. Cold Reg Sci Technol 53(3):317–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jin HJ, Luo DL, Wang SL, Lü LZ, Wu JC (2011) Spatiotemporal variability of permafrost degradation on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. Sci Cold Arid Reg 3(4):281–305Google Scholar
  20. Kokelj SV, Lantz TC, Kanigan J (2009) Origin and polycyclic behaviour of tundra thaw slumps, Mackenzie delta region, Northwest Territories, Canada. Permafr Periglac 20:173–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leibman MO (1995) Cryogenic landslides on the Yamal Peninsula, Russia: preliminary observations. Permafr Periglac 6:259–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lewkowicz AG, Harris C (2005a) Morphology and geotechnique of active-layer detachment failures in discontinuous and continuous permafrost, northern Canada. Geomorphology 69(1):275–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lewkowicz AG, Harris C (2005b) Frequency and magnitude of active-layer detachment failures in discontinuous and continuous permafrost, northern Canada. Permafr Periglac 16(1):115–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Li X, Cheng GD (1999) A GIS-aided response model of high altitude permafrost to global change. Sci China (Series D) 42(1):72–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lin ZJ, Niu FJ, Liu H, Lu JH (2011) Disturbance-related thawing of a ditch and its influence on roadbeds on permafrost. Cold Reg Sci Technol 66:105–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lipovsky P, Huscroft C (2007) A reconnaissance inventory of permafrost-related landslides in the Pelly River watershed, central Yukon. In: Emond DS, Lewis LL and Weston LH (eds) yukon exploration and geology, yukon geological survey pp 181–195Google Scholar
  27. Liu YZ, Wu QB (2000) Study on ground temperature field in permafrost regions of Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. Highway 2:4–8 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  28. Lu JH, Cheng H, Niu FJ, Lin ZJ, Liu H (2012) Zoning evaluation on occurrence degree of thermokarst lakes along the Qinghai–Tibet Railway. J Catastrophol 27(4):60–64 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  29. Ma FS, Wang J, Yuan RM, Zhao HJ, Guo J (2013) Application of analytical hierarchy process and least-squares method for landslide susceptibility assessment along the Zhong-Wu natural gas pipeline, China. Landslides 10(4):481–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McRoberts EC, Morgenstern NR (1974a) The stability of thawing slopes. Can Geotech J 11:447–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McRoberts EC, Morgenstern NR (1974b) Stability of slopes in frozen soil, Mackenzie Valley, N.W.T. Can Geotech J 11:554–573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Morgenstern NR, Nixon JF (1971) One-dimensional consolidation of thawing soils. Can Geotech J 8:558–565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nagarajan R, Roy A, Vinod Kumar R, Mukherjee A, Khire MV (2000) Landslide hazard susceptibility mapping based on terrain and climatic factors for tropical monsoon regions. B Eng Geol Environ 58:275–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Niu FJ, Zhang JM, Zhang JZ (2002) Engineering geological characteristics and evaluations of permafrost in Beiluhe Testing Field of Qinghai–Tibetan Railway. J Glaciol Geocryol 24(3):264–269 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  35. Niu FJ, Cheng GD, Ni WK, Jin DW (2005) Engineering-related slope failure in permafrost regions of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. Cold Reg Sci Technol 42(3):215–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Niu FJ, Luo J, Lin ZJ, Ma W, Lu JH (2012) Development and thermal regime of a thaw slump in the Qinghai–Tibet plateau. Cold Reg Sci Technol 83–84(4):131–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pourghasemi HR, Pradhan B, Gokceoglu C (2012) Application of fuzzy logic and analytical hierarchy process (AHP) to landslide susceptibility mapping at Haraz watershed, Iran. Nat Hazards 63(2):965–996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pourghasemi HR, Moradi HR, Aghda SMF (2013) Landslide susceptibility mapping by binary logistic regression, analytical hierarchy process, and statistical index models and assessment of their performances. Nat Hazards 69(1):749–779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ran YH, Li X, Cheng GD, Zhang TJ, Wu QB, Jin HJ, Jin R (2012) Distribution of permafrost in China: an overview of existing permafrost maps. Permafr Periglac 23(4):322–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Saaty TL (1977) A scaling method for priorities in hierarchical structures. J Math Psychol 15(3):234–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Saaty TL (1980) The analytic hierarchy process. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Saaty TL, Vargas LG (2001) Models, methods, concepts and applications of the analytic hierarchy process. Kluwer Academic, Boston, p 46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sun LP, Dong XF, Zhou Y, Zhao XZ, Wang G, Chen J (2008) The effect of embankment slope orientation along the Qinghai Tibet Highway and related radiation mechanisms. J Glaciol Geocryol 30(4):610–616 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  44. Wu QB, Liu YZ, Tong CJ (2002) Interactions between the permafrost and engineering environments in the cold regions. J Eng Geol 8(3):281–287 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  45. Wu QB, Cheng GD, Ma W (2004) The impact of climate warming on Qinghai–Tibetan railroad. Sci China (Series D) 47:122–130 (in Chinese with English abstract)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ye DZ, Gao YX (1979) Meteorology on the Qinghai-Xizang (Tibet) plateau. Science, Beijing, pp 1–79Google Scholar
  47. Zhang JJ (1988) Meteorological research progress on the Qinghai-Xizang (Tibet) plateau. Science, Beijing, pp 14–61Google Scholar
  48. Zhou YW, Qiu GQ, Guo DX, Cheng GD, Li SD (2000) Permafrost in China. Science, Beijing, China, pp 403–404Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fujun Niu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jing Luo
    • 1
    • 3
  • Zhanju Lin
    • 1
  • Minhao Liu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Guoan Yin
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Highway Construction and Maintenance Technology in Permafrost Region, Ministry of TransportFirst Highway Consultants Co. Ltd. of China Communications Construction CompanyXi’anChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations