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Landslide characterization using P- and S-wave seismic refraction tomography — The importance of elastic moduli

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journal contribution
posted on 05.03.2018 by S. Uhlemann, S. Hagedorn, B. Dashwood, Hansruedi Maurer, David Gunn, Tom Dijkstra, J. Chambers
© 2016 In the broad spectrum of natural hazards, landslides in particular are capable of changing the landscape and causing significant human and economic losses. Detailed site investigations form an important component in the landslide risk mitigation and disaster risk reduction process. These investigations usually rely on surface observations, discrete sampling of the subsurface, and laboratory testing to examine properties that are deemed representative of entire slopes. Often this requires extensive interpolations and results in large uncertainties. To compliment and extend these approaches, we present a study from an active landslide in a Lias Group clay slope, North Yorkshire, UK, examining combined P- and S-wave seismic refraction tomography (SRT) as a means of providing subsurface volumetric imaging of geotechnical proxies. The distributions of seismic wave velocities determined from SRT at the study site indicated zones with higher porosity and fissure density that are interpreted to represent the extent and depth of mass movements and weathered bedrock zones. Distinguishing the lithological units was facilitated by deriving the Poisson's ratio from the SRT data as saturated clay and partially saturated sandy silts showed distinctively different Poisson's ratios. Shear and Young's moduli derived from the SRT data revealed the weak nature of the materials in active parts of the landslide (i.e. 25 kPa and 100 kPa respectively). The SRT results are consistent with intrusive (i.e. cone penetration tests), laboratory, and additional geoelectrical data from this site. This study shows that SRT forms a cost-effective method that can significantly reduce uncertainties in the conceptual ground model of geotechnical and hydrological conditions that govern landslide dynamics.


The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) supported this research. This paper is published with the permission of the Executive Director of the British Geological Survey (NERC).



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

Published in

Journal of Applied Geophysics




64 - 76


UHLEMANN, S. ...et al., 2016. Landslide characterization using P- and S-wave seismic refraction tomography — The importance of elastic moduli. Journal of Applied Geophysics, 134, pp. 64-76.


© Natural Environment Research Council. Published by Elsevier


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Journal of Applied Geophysics and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jappgeo.2016.08.014