The mechanisms of a loess landslide triggered by diversion-based irrigation: a case study of the South Jingyang Platform, China

  • Penghui Ma
  • Jianbing PengEmail author
  • Qiyao Wang
  • Jianqi Zhuang
  • Fanyu Zhang
Original Paper


Continuous use of diversion-based irrigation has been associated with an increase in the frequency of loess landslides on the South Jingyang Platform, Shaanxi, China. A loess landslide event with a maximum sliding distance of 278 m occurred near the village of Miaodian on May 26, 2015. This landslide event was characterized by four individual landslides. Field investigations, geological exploration, numerical simulation, isotropically consolidated undrained (ICU) triaxial tests, and ring shear tests were conducted to identify its initiation and movement mechanisms. The ICU tests revealed that saturated loess samples were highly liquefiable. High pore water pressure was quickly produced and deviation stress increased the highest value even at low values of axial strain. Geological investigations revealed that cracks penetrated into the saturated zone from the ground surface, and simulation results revealed that these cracks played a dominant role in the infiltration of surface water and led to a rise in the groundwater table. When the infiltration recharge exceeds the holding capacity of the paleosol, the latter behaves as aquifuge under relatively undrained conditions. This process results in the accumulation of water at the bottom of the loess layer, thereby contributing to soil liquefaction and landslide initiation. The ring shear tests revealed that the saturated sand layer of the landslide substrates was subjected to easily inducible high pore water pressure under undrained conditions which led to the thrusting of the sand layer onto the deposit surface and explains the high speed and long runout distance of this landslide.


Loess landslide Irrigation Liquefaction Initiation mechanism Movement mechanisms 



The authors are very grateful to the anonymous reviewers and editors for their thoughtful review comments and suggestions which have significantly improved this paper. This work was financially supported by the Major Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (41790441), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41807234), the Special Fund for Basic Scientific Research of Central Colleges of Chang’an University (300102269506) and the central university foundings of Chang’an university (310826161004).


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Western China’s Mineral Resource and Geological Engineering, Ministry of EducationCollege of Geological Engineering and Surveying of Chang’an UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.College of Civil EngineeringChang’an UniversityXi’anChina
  3. 3.MOE Key Laboratory of Mechanics on Disaster and Environment in Western China, Department of Geological EngineeringLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina

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