Engineering Geology

Volume 307, 20 September 2022, 106774
Engineering Geology

Dynamic numerical modelling of co-seismic landslides using the 3D distinct element method: Insights from the Balta rockslide (Romania)

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Slope reconstruction of a pre-historic landslide with 3D geomodelling.

Three-dimensional back-analysis with distinct element code.

Flysch landslide with anti-dip slope bedding of Carpathian Mountains.

Simulation of internal degradation/fracturing of rock mass during landsliding.

Outlook to future seismic hazard analyses of the Vrancea-Buzau region (Romania).


Ancient landslides of unknown origin can be found in large numbers in mountainous regions; some represent valid markers of (pre-)historic natural regimes referring to either long-term evolution or short-term peak events of climatic and seismotectonic nature. An example is represented by the Balta rockslide in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains. Its location in the seismically active Vrancea-Buzau region, as well as its morphological features, deep-seated rupture surface and large debris volume, raise the question of its failure history with regard to a possible co-seismic triggering. A 3D volume based reconstruction of the slope morphology together with field measurements of elasto-plastic in-situ rock properties allow to estimate pre-failure conditions of the slope, with special regards to the geological, i.e. flysch bedrock of poor to fair rock quality, and structural settings, i.e. anti-dip slope bedding crossed by the main joint family. The reconstructed slope behaviour was tested under static and dynamic forces with the 3D distinct element code 3DEC, subsequently used to simulate a failure scenario with a 120 s long real earthquake record that leads to the realistic post-failure morphology of Balta. For the latter, we observe a principally joint-controlled failure combined with internal fracturing of the undamaged rock mass. After 230 s of simulated time, the landslide debris reaches the valley bottom with maximum displacements of 1350 m and is marked by a lateral expansion to a broader extent than the source zone width, as observed in the field. Extension of this work to other pre-historic slope failures in the valleys of Vrancea-Buzau yield valuable new information for future seismic hazard estimations of the region.


Flysch rockslide
Slope reconstruction
Internal fracturing
Numerical modelling

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