Onset of natural terrain landslides modelled by linear stability analysis of creeping slopes with a two-state variable friction law

Kam Tim Chau

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15 Citations (Scopus)


This paper further examines the possibility of modelling landslide as a consequence of the unstable slip in a steadily creeping slope when it is subject to perturbations, such as those induced by rainfall and earthquakes. In particular, the one-state variable friction law used in the landslide analysis by Chau is extended to a two-state variable friction law. According to this state variable friction law, the shear strength (τ) along the slip surface depends on the creeping velocity (V) as well as the two state variables (θ1and θ2), which evolve with the ongoing slip. For translational slides, a system of three coupled non-linear first-order ordinary differential equations is formulated, and a linear stability analysis is applied to study the stability in the neighbourhood of the equilibrium solution of the system. By employing the stability classification of Reyn for three-dimensional space, it is found that equilibrium state (or critical point) of a slope may change from a `stable spiral' to a `saddle spiral with unstable plane focus' through a transitional state called `converging vortex spiral' (i.e. bifurcation occurs), as the non-linear parameters of the slip surface evolve with its environmental changes (such as those induced by rainfall or human activities). If the one-state variable friction law is used in landslide modelling, velocity strengthening (i.e. dτss/dV>0, where τssis the steady-state shear stress) in the laboratory always implies the stability of a creeping slope containing the same slip surface under gravitational pull. This conclusion, however, does not apply if a two-state variable friction law is employed to model the sliding along the slip surface. In particular, neither the region of stable creeping slopes in the non-linear parameter space can be inferred by that of velocity strengthening, nor the unstable region by that of velocity weakening.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1835-1855
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 25 Dec 1999


  • Creeping slopes
  • Friction law
  • Natural terrain landslides
  • Stability analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Mechanics of Materials


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