Abstract

Slow-moving landslides are a wide-spread type of active mass movement, can cause severe damages to infrastructure, and may be a precursor of sudden catastrophic slope failures. Pore-water pressure is commonly regarded as the most important among a number of possible factors controlling landslide velocity. We used high-resolution monitoring data to explore the relations of landslide mobility and hydrologic processes at the Heumöser landslide in Austria, which is characterized by continuous slow movement along a shear zone. Movement rates showed a seasonality that was associated with elevated pore-water pressures. Pore pressure monitoring revealed a system of confined and separated aquifers with differing dynamics. Analysis of a simple infinite slope mobility model showed that small variations in parameters, along with measured pore pressure dynamics, provided a perfect match to our observations. Modeling showed a stabilizing effect of snow cover due to the additional load. This finding was supported by a multiple regression model, which further suggested that effective pore pressures at the slip surface were partially differing from the borehole observations and were related to preferential infiltration and subsurface flow in adjacent areas. It appears that in a setting like the Heumöser landslide, hydrologic processes delicately influence slope mobility through their control on pore pressure dynamics and the weight of the landslide body, which challenges observation and modeling. Moreover, it appears that their simplicity, and especially their high sensitivity to parameter variations, limits the conclusions that can be drawn from infinite slope models.

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