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Field and numerical investigations of landslide hazards

Giant landslides in the order of tens of millions of cubic meters have posed significant hazards to the populated areas in Southwest China. To date, the public awareness of landslide hazards is high, but a fundamental understanding of its failure mechanism and countermeasures are still limited.

The proposed research aims at assessing the failure mechanism and impacts of giant landslides by field investigations and numerical modelling. The focus is to investigate the influence of slope fragmentation and pore water on landslide dynamics and impacts on infrastructures. The field investigations will explore the earthquake-induced landslides in the Wenchuan seismic zone. The datasets from field investigation will be employed in the novel coupled random field theory (RFT) and discrete element method (DEM) model to analyse the landslide dynamics and the potential impacts on infrastructures.

Based on this research, the decision-makers (e.g. private, industrial and government stakeholders) would have greater confidence in landslide risk assessments on which they are basing their infrastructure investment considerations. Consequently, landslide hazard warning systems, reliable protections and land utilization regulations can be implemented, so that the loss of lives and properties can be minimized without investing in long-term, costly projects of ground stabilization.


  1. Zhao, T., Liu, Y. A novel random discrete element analysis of rock fragmentation. International Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics, 2020, 44: 1386-1395. (DOI: 10.1002/nag.3067)

  2. Zhao T. *, Crosta G. B.. On the dynamic fragmentation and lubrication of coseismic landslides. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2018, 123, 11, 9914-9932.

  3. Zhao, T.*, Crosta, G. B., Utili, S. & Dattola, G. Dynamic fragmentation of jointed rock blocks during rockslide-avalanches: insights from discrete element analyses. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2018,123, 4, 3250–3269 (doi: 10.1002/2017JB015210) 

  4. Zhao, T.*, Crosta, G. B., Utili, S. & De Blasio, F. V. Investigation of rock fragmentation during rockfalls and rock avalanches via 3-D discrete element analyses. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 2017, 122(3), 678-695.

  5. Zhao, T., F. Dai, N.W. Xu. Coupled DEM-CFD investigation of the formation of landslide dams in narrow rivers. Landslides, 2017, 14(1), 189-201 (doi: 10.1007/s10346-015-0675-1)

Landslide China

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Tao Zhao

Related Research Group(s)

about us

Geotechnical and Environmental Engineering - Delivering a new understanding of our geo-environment and critical infrastructure in diverse ecosystems, for predicting and preventing catastrophic failure and responding to the need for decarbonisation and energy security.

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Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 17/12/2020