Patterns of precursory rockfall prior to slope failure

Nicholas Rosser*, Michael Lim, David Petley, Stuart Dunning, Robert Allison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper we examine data generated using high-resolution three-dimensional laser scanning monitoring of coastal rock cliffs. These data are used to identify spatial and temporal patterns in rockfall activity behavior prior to slope failure. Analysis of the data suggests that given sufficient measurement precision precursory behavior, here manifest as the rate of rockfall activity prior to failure, can be detected, measured, and monitored. Environmental conditions appear to have a diminishing influence on the occurrence of increasingly large slope failures. The monitoring data implies a time-dependent sequence in the occurrence of smaller rockfalls in the period leading to the largest failures recorded. This behavior is attributed to the mechanisms of strain accumulation in the rock mass resulting from brittle failure of the slope. The implication is that combining these data with models of failure mechanisms may allow failure time to be forecast from wide-area monitoring of precursory behavior. These findings have implications for the management of potentially unstable slopes, the understanding of slope failure mechanisms, and the generation of a new type of slope failure warning systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberF04014
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberF04014
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2007


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