Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-231
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-231
16 Feb 2024
 | 16 Feb 2024

How water, temperature and seismicity control the preparation of massive rock slope failure (Hochvogel, DE/AT)

Johannes Leinauer, Michael Dietze, Sibylle Knapp, Riccardo Scandroglio, Maximilian Jokel, and Michael Krautblatter

Abstract. The increasing hazard of major rock slope failures, exacerbated by climate change, underscores the importance of anticipating pre-failure process dynamics. While standard triggers are recognized for small rockfalls, few comprehensive driver quantifications exist for massive pre-failure rock slopes. Here we exploit >4 years multi-method high-resolution monitoring data from a well-prepared high-magnitude rock slope instability. To quantify and understand the effect of possible drivers – water from rain and snowmelt, internal rock fracturing and earthquakes – we correlate slope displacements with environmental data, local seismic recordings and earthquake catalogues. During the snowmelt phase, displacements are controlled by meltwater infiltration with high correlation and a time lag of 4–9 days. During the snow-free summer, rainfall drives the system with a time lag of 1–16 h for up to several days without a minimum activation rain sum threshold. Detected rock fracturing, linked to temperature and freeze-thaw cycles, is predominantly surface-near and unrelated to displacement rates. A classic Newmark analysis of recent and historic earthquakes indicates a low potential for immediate triggering of a major failure at the case site, unless it is already very close to failure. Seismic topographic amplification of the peak ground velocity at the summit ranges from a factor of 2–11 and is spatially heterogeneous, indicating a high criticality of the slope. The presented methodological approach enables a comprehensive rockfall driver evaluation and indicates where future climatic changes, e.g. in precipitation intensity and frequency, may alter the preparation of major rock slope failures.

Johannes Leinauer, Michael Dietze, Sibylle Knapp, Riccardo Scandroglio, Maximilian Jokel, and Michael Krautblatter

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-231', Maximillian Van Wyk de Vries, 09 Mar 2024
  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-231', Giacomo Medici, 12 Mar 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-231', Anonymous Referee #2, 18 Mar 2024
Johannes Leinauer, Michael Dietze, Sibylle Knapp, Riccardo Scandroglio, Maximilian Jokel, and Michael Krautblatter
Johannes Leinauer, Michael Dietze, Sibylle Knapp, Riccardo Scandroglio, Maximilian Jokel, and Michael Krautblatter

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Short summary
Massive rock slope failures are a significant alpine hazard and change the earth´s surface. Therefore, we must understand what controls the preparation of such events. By correlating four years of slope displacements with meteorological and seismic data, we found that water from rain and snowmelt is the most important driver. Our approach is applicable to similar sites and indicates, where future climatic changes, e.g. in rain intensity and frequency, may alter the preparation of slope failure.