This work describes field evidence of gravity-induced cracking that has been identified on the failure scar of a small rockslide (volume = 6-7 m(3)) that occurred in March 2004 in the Rosandra Valley near the town of Trieste (north-eastern Italy). This shallow rock slope failure involved a limestone slope that was re-profiled through blasting about 135 years ago for the construction of an old railway, which has now been reconverted into a cycle path. Field observations ascertained that the slope failure was characterised by a cascading rupture process in which adjacent blocks collapsed in rapid sequence as a result of the progressive breakage of a number of rock bridges (domino-like collapse), thus highlighting a progressive failure mechanism. The rock bridges were localised in eccentric positions on lateral and rear release planes and failed in tension as a result of combined tensile and bending loading conditions (tensile strength of intact rock = 5 +/- 2 MPa). The rockslide was triggered by cyclic loading related to freeze-thaw (ice jacking) that occurred over some consecutive days of daily snowmelt and nocturnal frost. The recognition of newly formed fractures also proves the current progressive development of 3D rupture surfaces of some unstable blocks susceptible to failure. This study provides innovative content to detect gravity-induced cracking in the field, which is an important precursory sign relating to the progressive failure of rock slopes. Gravity-induced cracks can be distinguished from pre-existing discontinuities for their more irregular profile (zigzag pattern), rougher surface, lower persistence and potentially different orientation. This study also provides some new insights into the step-path failure process of steep rock slopes. The mechanical process of initiation, growing and coalescence of gravity-induced fractures is strongly time-and stress-dependent. In the absence of external changing factors that profoundly modify the acting stress state (for instance, engi-neering countermeasures), progressive failure is a dynamic and irreversible process. For excavated slopes, the creation of a new rock face may abruptly provide the kinematic freedom of potentially unstable blocks, thus determining a very quick stress redistribution. If the mechanical system is not able to redistribute the stress on resisting stiff parts without overcoming the intact rock strength, gravity-induced cracking initiates and propa-gates until reaching slope collapse within times that are much shorter (from hours to 100-200 years) compared to natural rock slopes subjected to long-lasting geological processes (from 1000 to 2000 up to 10,000-20,000 years).

In-depth field survey of a rockslide detachment surface to recognise the occurrence of gravity-induced cracking

Paolo Paronuzzi;Alberto Bolla
2022-01-01

Abstract

This work describes field evidence of gravity-induced cracking that has been identified on the failure scar of a small rockslide (volume = 6-7 m(3)) that occurred in March 2004 in the Rosandra Valley near the town of Trieste (north-eastern Italy). This shallow rock slope failure involved a limestone slope that was re-profiled through blasting about 135 years ago for the construction of an old railway, which has now been reconverted into a cycle path. Field observations ascertained that the slope failure was characterised by a cascading rupture process in which adjacent blocks collapsed in rapid sequence as a result of the progressive breakage of a number of rock bridges (domino-like collapse), thus highlighting a progressive failure mechanism. The rock bridges were localised in eccentric positions on lateral and rear release planes and failed in tension as a result of combined tensile and bending loading conditions (tensile strength of intact rock = 5 +/- 2 MPa). The rockslide was triggered by cyclic loading related to freeze-thaw (ice jacking) that occurred over some consecutive days of daily snowmelt and nocturnal frost. The recognition of newly formed fractures also proves the current progressive development of 3D rupture surfaces of some unstable blocks susceptible to failure. This study provides innovative content to detect gravity-induced cracking in the field, which is an important precursory sign relating to the progressive failure of rock slopes. Gravity-induced cracks can be distinguished from pre-existing discontinuities for their more irregular profile (zigzag pattern), rougher surface, lower persistence and potentially different orientation. This study also provides some new insights into the step-path failure process of steep rock slopes. The mechanical process of initiation, growing and coalescence of gravity-induced fractures is strongly time-and stress-dependent. In the absence of external changing factors that profoundly modify the acting stress state (for instance, engi-neering countermeasures), progressive failure is a dynamic and irreversible process. For excavated slopes, the creation of a new rock face may abruptly provide the kinematic freedom of potentially unstable blocks, thus determining a very quick stress redistribution. If the mechanical system is not able to redistribute the stress on resisting stiff parts without overcoming the intact rock strength, gravity-induced cracking initiates and propa-gates until reaching slope collapse within times that are much shorter (from hours to 100-200 years) compared to natural rock slopes subjected to long-lasting geological processes (from 1000 to 2000 up to 10,000-20,000 years).
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
2022_Paronuzzi & Bolla_Gravity-induced cracking.pdf

non disponibili

Tipologia: Versione Editoriale (PDF)
Licenza: Non pubblico
Dimensione 5.5 MB
Formato Adobe PDF
5.5 MB Adobe PDF   Visualizza/Apri   Richiedi una copia

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11390/1232087
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus 5
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? 5
social impact