Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 6, pp 1215–1225

The impacts of hysteresis on variably saturated hydrologic response and slope failure

Original Article


This investigation employs 3D, variably saturated subsurface flow simulation to examine hysteretic effects upon the hydrologic response used to drive unsaturated slope stability assessments at the Coos Bay 1 (CB1) experimental catchment in the Oregon Coast Range, USA. Slope stability is evaluated using the relatively simple infinite slope model for unsaturated soils driven by simulated pore-water pressures for an intense storm that triggered a slope failure at CB1 on 18 November 1996. Simulations employing both hysteretic and non-hysteretic soil–water retention curves indicate that using either the drying soil–water retention curve or an intermediate soil–water retention curve that attempts to average the wetting and drying retention curves underestimates the near-surface hydrologic response and subsequently the potential for slope failure. If hysteresis cannot be considered in the hydrologic simulation, the wetting soil–water retention curve, which is seldom measured, should be used for more physically based slope stability assessment. Without considering hysteresis or using the wetting soil–water retention curve, the potential for landsliding in unsaturated materials may be underestimated and a slope failure could occur when simulations predict stability.


Hysteresis InHM Landslide Unsaturated Modeling Hillslope 



Coos Bay 1


Integrated hydrology model


Factor of safety








United States of America


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian A. Ebel
    • 1
    • 3
  • Keith Loague
    • 1
  • Ronaldo I. Borja
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geological and Environmental SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological SurveyMenlo ParkUSA

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