Slope stability is always on your mind when building and designing infrastructure and communities located on or near sloped terrain. In the U.S. alone, landslides cause 25 to 50 deaths and $1 billion in damage to infrastructure each year.
The risks associated with slope instability are increasing thanks to climate change. In this article, we will explore the impact of changing climate on slope stability and discuss the Slope Decision Support System (SDSS) that can help in managing these risks.
The Connection Between Slope Stability and Climate Change
One of the primary impacts of climate change on slope stability is changes in weather patterns. With an increase in the frequency and magnitude of rainfall and periods of drought, the wet-dry cycles that soil experiences are changing, causing faster deterioration due to processes of weather-driven deterioration. These effects cause progressive failure, making it easier for slopes to fail with less force.
The Grizzly Creek Fire, which started in August 2020 in Colorado, left barren hillsides and an increased risk of landslides, particularly debris flows. The absence of vegetation on the slopes destabilizes them and increases the likelihood of rockfalls and other forms of landslide activity. Climate change is making the problem worse, with rising temperatures leading to more intense wildfires and extreme weather events that can trigger landslides.
The SDSS as A Tool for Managing Slope Stability Risks
When designing slopes, there is a particular focus on the slope angle, as the critical angle of a slope is the angle of repose at which failure will occur. With the progressive failure due to weather-driven deterioration, the design parameters used to design for the strength of the soil, such as cohesion and the internal friction angle, are changing faster, making it difficult to accurately predict slope stability. The Slope Decision Support System (SDSS) can be a valuable tool in predicting and managing slope stability in areas affected by climate change.
The SDSS is an interactive system that can predict stability issues in the uppermost soil horizons. It uses methods that concern unstructured or semi-structured problems, which can aid in arriving at complex decisions. The system allows end-users to interact with the system via project-specific data entered, defining the outcome of the analysis.
One of the significant advantages of the SDSS features is that the system can cater to specific user preferences. Experienced end-users can be reminded of the various options they can consider, while novice users can benefit from the interactive problem-solving process.
The SDSS can be a useful tool for eco-engineering professionals, officers, and students familiar with computer software. The SDSS has been presented at international scientific conferences, is available free of charge, and will soon be produced in CD form.
While the SDSS is only available in Europe, it can be adapted for other continents like Asia and the Americas. Potential partners involved in environmental technology, forestry, ground bioengineering, etc., are sought for collaboration by the developers of the tool.