Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1258–1274 | Cite as

Experimental investigation on the failure mechanism of a rock landslide controlled by a steep-gentle discontinuity pair

  • Da Huang
  • Zhu ZhongEmail author
  • Dong-ming Gu


A type of rock landslide is very common in practical engineering, whose stability is mainly controlled by the rock bridge between the steep tensile crack at the crest and the low-inclination weak discontinuities at the toe (namely, ligament is the term for the locking section in the slope). To obtain a deeper understanding into the failure process of this kind of landslide, twenty-four physical slope models containing a steep-gentle discontinuity pair (a steep crack in the upper part and a low-inclination discontinuity in the lower part) were tested by applying vertical loads at the crests. The results indicate that the inclination angle of the ligament (θ) has great influence on the failure and stability of this type of rock slope. With the change of θ, three failure patterns (five subtypes) concerning the tested slopes can be observed, i.e., tensile failure of the ligament (Type 1), tension-shear failure of the ligament (Type 2) and two-stage failure of the main body (Type 3). The failure process of each failure mode presents five stages in terms of crack development, vertical load, horizontal/vertical displacements and strains in the ligaments. The specific range of the ligament angle between different failure patterns is summarized. The discussion on the failure resistances and ductility of different failure patterns, and the guiding significances of the experimental findings to the stability evaluation and the reinforcement were conducted.


Rock landslide Failure pattern Failure evolution Locking section Crack coalescence 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41672300).


  1. Barla M, Piovano G, Grasselli G (2012) Rock slide simulation with the combined finite-discrete element method. International Journal of Geomechanics 12(6): 711–721. Google Scholar
  2. Cruden DM, & Varnes DJ (1996) Landslides: investigation and mitigation. Chapter 3-Landslide types and processes. Transportation research board special report (247).Google Scholar
  3. Davies TR, Mcsaveney MJ (2009) The role of rock fragmentation in the motion of large landslides. Engineering Geology 109(1–2): 67–79. Google Scholar
  4. Delaney KB, Evans SG (2015) The 2000 Yigong landslide (Tibetan Plateau), rockslide-dammed lake and outburst flood: review, remote sensing analysis, and process modelling. Geomorphology 246: 377–393. Google Scholar
  5. Eberhardt E, Stead D, Coggan JS (2004) Numerical analysis of initiation and progressive failure in natural rock slopes-the 1991 Randa rockslide. International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences 41(1): 69–87. Google Scholar
  6. Fan XM, Xu Q, Scaringi G, et al. (2017) Failure mechanism and kinematics of the deadly June 24th 2017 Xinmo landslide, Maoxian, Sichuan, China. Landslides 14(6): 2129–2146. Google Scholar
  7. Fan XM, Xu Q, Scaringi G, et al. (2019) The “long” runout rock avalanche in Pusa, China, on August 28, 2017: a preliminary report. Landslides 16(1): 139–154. Google Scholar
  8. Fan XM, Xu Q, Zhang ZY, et al. (2009) The genetic mechanism of a translational landslide. Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment 68(2): 231–244. Google Scholar
  9. Ghosh S, Westen CJV, Carranza EJM, et al. (2012) Generating event-based landslide maps in a data-scarce Himalayan environment for estimating temporal and magnitude probabilities. Engineering Geology 128(128): 49–62. Google Scholar
  10. Gorum T, Fan XM, Westen CJV, et al. (2011) Distribution pattern of earthquake-induced landslides triggered by the 12 may 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Geomorphology 133(3): 152–167. Google Scholar
  11. Huang D, Cen D, Ma G, et al. (2015) Step-path failure of rock slopes with intermittent joints. Landslides 12(5): 911–926. Google Scholar
  12. Huang RQ (2007) Large-scale landslides and their sliding mechanisms in china since the 20th century. Chinese Journal of Rock Mechanics and Engineering 26(3): 433–454. (In Chinese) Google Scholar
  13. Huang RQ (2009) Some catastrophic landslides since the twentieth century in the southwest of China. Landslides 6(1): 69–81. Google Scholar
  14. Huang RQ (2012) Mechanisms of large-scale landslides in China. Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment 71(1): 161–170. Google Scholar
  15. Huang RQ, Chen G, Guo F, et al. (2016) Experimental study on the brittle failure of the locking section in a large-scale rock slide. Landslides 13(3): 583–588. Google Scholar
  16. Kang C, Zhang F, Pan F, et al. (2018) Characteristics and dynamic runout analyses of 1983 Saleshan landslide. Engineering Geology 243.
  17. Kang Y, Zhao C, Zhang Q, et al. (2017) Application of InSAR techniques to an analysis of the Guanling landslide. Remote Sensing 9(10): 1046. Google Scholar
  18. Lebaillif D, Recho N (2007) Brittle and ductile crack propagation using automatic finite element crack box technique. Engineering Fracture Mechanics 74(11): 1810–1824. Google Scholar
  19. Li X, Kong J, Wang Z (2012) Landslide displacement prediction based on combining method with optimal weight. Natural Hazards 61(2): 635–646. Google Scholar
  20. Lin F, Wu LZ, Huang RQ (2018) Formation and characteristics of the Xiaoba landslide in Fuquan, Guizhou, China. Landslides 15(4): 669–681. Google Scholar
  21. Xiao YX, Feng XT, Hudson JA, et al. (2016) Isrm suggested method for in situ microseismic monitoring of the fracturing process in rock masses. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering 49(1): 343–369. Google Scholar
  22. Marc-André Brideau, Stead D, Couture R (2006) Structural and engineering geology of the east gate landslide, Purcell mountains, British Columbia, Canada. Engineering Geology 84(3–4): 183–206. Google Scholar
  23. Mora P, Baldi P, Casula G, et al. (2003) Global positioning systems and digital photogrammetry for the monitoring of mass movements: application to the Ca’ di Malta landslide (northern Apennines, Italy). Engineering Geology 68(1): 103–121. Google Scholar
  24. Osmundsen PT, Henderson I, Lauknes TR, et al. (2009) Active normal fault control on landscape and rock-slope failure in northern Norway. Geology 37(2): 135–138. Google Scholar
  25. Palis E, Lebourg T, Tric E, et al. (2017) Long-term monitoring of a large deep-seated landslide (La clapiere, south-east French Alps): initial study. Landslides 14(1): 1–16. Google Scholar
  26. Petley D (2012) Global patterns of loss of life from landslides. Geology 40(10): 927–930. Google Scholar
  27. Rouai M, Jaaidi EB (2003) Scaling properties of landslides in the Rif mountains of Morocco. Engineering Geology 68(3–4): 353–359. Google Scholar
  28. Sagong M, Bobet A (2002) Coalescence of multiple flaws in a rock-model material in uniaxial compression. International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences 39(2): 229–241. Google Scholar
  29. Scaioni M (Ed.) (2015) Modern technologies for landslide monitoring and prediction. Springer. Google Scholar
  30. Sturzenegger M, Stead D (2012) The Palliser rockslide, Canadian Rocky mountains: characterization and modeling of a stepped failure surface. Geomorphology 138(1): 145–161. Google Scholar
  31. Su L, Hu K, Zhang W, et al. (2017) Characteristics and triggering mechanism of Xinmo landslide on 24 June 2017 in Sichuan, China. Journal of Mountain Science 14(9): 1689–1700. Google Scholar
  32. Wang Y, Zhou L (1999) Spatial distribution and mechanism of geological hazards along the oil pipeline planned in western China. Engineering Geology 51(3): 195–201. Google Scholar
  33. Wong RHC, Chau KT (1998) Crack coalescence in a rock-like material containing two cracks. International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences 35(2): 147–164. Google Scholar
  34. Wong LNY, Einstein HH (2009a) Crack coalescence in molded gypsum and carrara marble: part 1-macroscopic observations and interpretation. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering 42(3): 475–511. Google Scholar
  35. Wong LNY, Einstein HH (2009b). Crack coalescence in molded gypsum and carrara marble: part 2-microscopic observations and interpretation. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering 42(3): 513–545. Google Scholar
  36. Wu Z, Wong LNY (2012) Frictional crack initiation and propagation analysis using the numerical manifold method. Computers and Geotechnics 39(1): 38–53. Google Scholar
  37. Xu Y, Tang Q, Fan J, et al. (2011) Assessing construction land potential and its spatial pattern in China. Landscape and Urban Planning 103(2): 207–216. Google Scholar
  38. Yin YP, Sun P, Zhu J, et al. (2011) Research on catastrophic rock avalanche at Guanling, Guizhou, China. Landslides 8(4): 517–525. Google Scholar
  39. Zhao C, Zhou YM, Zhao CF, et al. (2018) Cracking processes and coalescence modes in rock-like specimens with two parallel pre-existing cracks. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering 1–17.
  40. Zhou T, Zhu JB (2017) Identification of a suitable 3d printing material for mimicking brittle and hard rocks and its brittleness enhancements. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering 51(2): 1–13. Google Scholar
  41. Zhou XP, Bi J, Qian QH (2015) Numerical simulation of crack growth and coalescence in rock-like materials containing multiple pre-existing flaws. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering 48(3): 1097–1114. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Coal Mine Disaster Dynamics and ControlChongqing UniversityChongqingChina
  2. 2.School of Civil and Transportation EngineeringHebei University of TechnologyTianjinChina

Personalised recommendations