Paraglacial Rockslope Stability
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The aim of this research was to study the relationship between rock slope stability and glacial processes. An in-depth analysis of our current understanding of how glaciated rock slopes develop instability and movement during deglaciation is presented; this shows that understanding is incomplete without an appreciation of the variable mechanical behaviour of glacier ice. In this thesis, I argue that: (1) The ductile behaviour of ice at low strain rates allows movement of rock slopes buttressed by ice. Field evidence and simple force models are used to explore rate of movement of ice-contact slopes and the conditions under which they evolve. The results indicate that large rockslides can move and deform glacial ice at rates of 10-2 to 102 m-yr. This implies that ice-contact slope movement may be important for slope evolution and the erosion and entrainment processes of glaciers; and (2) the elastic strength of glacier ice at the high strain rates associated with seismic shaking enables ice to modify the response of the surrounding rock to seismic shaking. To explore this, numerical analyses of the interaction between glacial erosion, glacier mass, topography, and earthquake shaking intensity are undertaken. Shaking of mountains of variable shape and with different levels of ice inundation is simulated using FLAC 6.0. The results suggest that complete inundation by ice can significantly reduce shaking intensity. This, in combination with glacial steepening of slopes, may make recently deglaciated slopes more prone to coseismic failure. In the final chapter of the thesis, I present a conceptual model of the evolution of slope stability during stages of glaciation and deglaciation. The model incorporates the ideas presented in the thesis. I then offer recommendations for how our understanding of these processes can be further advanced.