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In Seattle, Washington, deep-seated landslides on bluffs along Puget Sound have historically caused extensive damage to land and structures. These large failures are controlled by three-dimensional (3-D) variations in strength and pore-water pressures. We assess the slope stability of part of southwestern Seattle using a 3-D limit-equilibrium analysis coupled with a 3-D groundwater flow model. Our analyses use a high-resolution digital elevation model (DEM) combined with assignment of strength and hydraulic properties based on geologic units. The hydrogeology of the Seattle area consists of a layer of permeable glacial outwash sand that overlies less permeable glacial lacustrine silty clay. Using a 3-D groundwater model, MODFLOW-2000, we simulate a water table above the less permeable units and calibrate the model to observed conditions. The simulated pore-pressure distribution is then used in a 3-D slope-stability analysis, SCOOPS, to quantify the stability of the coastal bluffs. For wet winter conditions, our analyses predict that the least stable areas are steep hillslopes above Puget Sound, where pore pressures are elevated in the outwash sand. Groundwater flow converges in coastal reentrants, resulting in elevated pore pressures and destabilization of slopes. Regions predicted to be least stable include the areas in or adjacent to three mapped historically active deep-seated landslides. The results of our 3-D analyses differ significantly from a slope map or results from one-dimensional (1-D) analyses.

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