Abstract

Following the initial stress release after excavation of a road cut, weathering and erosion processes will start acting on the newly exposed slope material. As field observations show, the resulting degradation may have significant effects well before the envisaged engineering lifetime of the slope ends. The data set obtained by 12 years of fieldwork by the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation and Delft University of Technology was used to assess and quantify the time-related degradation of rock masses by weathering. The results of a bootstrap analysis of the data show a close relationship between the weathering rates, the slope aspect, and the prevailing wind directions during rainfall events. For the study area around Falset it can be concluded that in shales, marls, and similar materials containing clays (especially swelling clays), weathering rates are highest in slopes facing the prevailing winds during rainfall because of more frequent and intense cyclic wetting and drying. The same holds true for more resistant materials such as limestones, which are interbedded with weak materials such as shales and marls. In soluble materials such as the gypsum unit investigated here, water retention in slopes sheltered from the winds facilitates chemical weathering, and it is in these lee-side slopes that the highest weathering rates are found. These relations can be used to predict weathering rates and, therefore, also weathering degree as a function of time. With the use of a probabilistic slope-stability assessment method, the time-related slope stability can also be predicted.

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