A vertical gap develops behind the crest of a slope in either soil or rock and forms the back face to the scar left by a landslide when complete failure of the slope occurs. Water within a tension crack can significantly contribute to slope failure.
The shear forces of concern in slopes are those directed out of the slope face because they will cause ground to move toward the slope and, when sufficient, will eventually cause the slope to fail.
Shear stresses are greatest in the region behind the toe of a slope. It is from this area that failure of the ground in shear commences, nucleating from discrete locations where shear stresses exceed the shear strength of the ground to form larger surfaces of shear. Failure progressively radiates outward from these centers, toward the toe and the crest of the slope.
In homogeneous plastic ground of the sort commonly found in unstructured clay, this will result in either a circular or near-circular rotational failure. Most clay are not...
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