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Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 71, Issue 8, pp 3321–3328 | Cite as

The effect of permafrost changes on embankment stability along the Qinghai–Xizang Railway

  • Qingbai Wu
  • Fujun Niu
  • Wei Ma
  • Yongzhi Liu
Original Article

Abstract

After construction of the Qinghai–Xizang Railway, the resultant heat exchange between soil and atmosphere caused changes in the thermal and mechanical stability of permafrost beneath the railway embankment. Monitoring from 2005 to 2010 indicated 12 sections of embankment that experienced more than 5 cm of settlement, with three showing deformations of more than 10 cm and signs of continuing settlement. Embankment stability is closely related to permafrost changes beneath the embankment. Large-scale deformations have contributed to permafrost thaw and artificial permafrost table deepening, and this deformation has not stabilized over the short term. In contrast, small-scale deformations have contributed to a warming of the permafrost that has gradually stabilized as soil temperature decreases. Only three sections of the Qinghai–Xizang Railway have exhibited settlement deformation that exceeds 10 cm, through a deepening of the artificial permafrost table and a gradual increase in permafrost thawing result in embankment settlement deformation. However, with climate warming trends and the long-term operation of the railway, the long-term thermal and mechanical stability of the embankment needs to be carefully monitored to ensure the safe operation of the Qinghai–Xizang Railway.

Keywords

Qinghai–Xizang Railway Permafrost changes Embankment stability Deformation 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research is partly supported by the Global Change Research Program of China (2010CB951402) and the Program for Innovative Research Group of Natural Science Foundation of China (40821001), and the Hundred Young Talents program award of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to Qingbai Wu.

Supplementary material

12665_2013_2718_Fig9_ESM.jpg (857 kb)

Permafrost monitoring network along the Qinghai–Tibet Railway. Solid red circles indicate the monitoring sections presented in this article. Yellow open circles are other monitoring sites...Embankment deformation >5 cm

12665_2013_2718_Fig10_ESM.jpg (80 kb)

Embankment deformation >5 cm

12665_2013_2718_Fig11_ESM.jpg (238 kb)

Thermal regime of soil beneath the embankment on the sunny shoulder of section HR3 from September 2004 to September 2010

12665_2013_2718_Fig12_ESM.jpg (62 kb)

Artificial permafrost table beneath the embankment on the sunny and shaded shoulders of section BR4

12665_2013_2718_Fig13_ESM.jpg (144 kb)

Embankment deformation on the sunny and shaded shoulders of section BR4

12665_2013_2718_Fig14_ESM.jpg (75 kb)

Artificial permafrost table beneath the embankment on the shaded and sunny shoulders of AD1. Dashed line is the depth of the natural permafrost table beneath the embankment

12665_2013_2718_Fig15_ESM.jpg (126 kb)

Embankment deformation on the shaded and sunny shoulders of AD1

12665_2013_2718_Fig16_ESM.jpg (141 kb)

Accumulated increase of embankment deformation and the artificial permafrost table beneath the embankment. Solid and open circles are the shaded and sunny shoulders of AD1; solid and open triangles are the shaded and sunny shoulders of LD1; open squares are the sunny shoulder of BR4

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qingbai Wu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fujun Niu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wei Ma
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yongzhi Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, Cold and Arid Region Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Beiluhe Observation Station of Frozen Soil Environment and Engineering, Cold and Arid Region Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina

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