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Int. J. Rock Mech. Min. Sci. & Geomech. Abstr. Vol. 20, No. 5. pp.

227-236, 1983

0148-9062/8353.00 + 0.00
Copyright ( 1983 Pergamon Press Lid

Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved

The Effect of Discontinuity Persistence


on Rock Slope Stability
H.
D.
G.
K.

H. EINSTEIN*
VENEZIANO*
B. B A E C H E R t
J. O'REILLY$
Discontinuity persistence has a major effect on rock mass resistance (strength)
but, as direct mapping of discontinuities internal to a rock mass is not possible,
persistence is a difficult parameter to measure. As a result, the conservative
approach of assuming full persistence is often taken. In this paper a method
is developed for relating rock mass stability and hence persistence to the
geometry and spatial variability of discontinuities. The method is applied to
slope stability calculations in which the probability of failure is related to
discontinuity data, as obtained in joint surveys. The complete method makes
use of dynamic programming and simulation, but a closed form e,vpression
satisfactory for most purposes is also presented.

INTRODUCTION
Discontinuity (hereafter referred to as joint) persistence
is among the parameters most significantly affecting rock
mass strength, and is a problematic one. While relatively
small bridges of intact rock between otherwise continouous joints substantially increase strength, the mapping of each joint is impossible on a practical basis. An
attractive alternative to separately considering specific
joints is offered by statistical techniques for sampling
and describing the geometry of discontinuities.
These techniques are at an early stage of development,
but offer a significant advancement of the state of the art:
they characterize persistence as a random variable and,
in conjunction with a mechanical model of rock failure,
produce the probability distribution of rock mass
strength.
A method is developed here for rock-slope reliability
analysis based on a probabilistic characterization of the
joint system. In doing so, it is found convenient to
modify the traditional definition of rock persistence by
accounting for the uncertain failure path. Preceding
work is briefly described, and is followed by a description of the present method.

defined as the fraction of area that is actually discontinuous. One can therefore express K as the limit
K=

Y~ aoi
i

lim - AD'~Z~ Ao '

in which D is a region of the plane with area Ao and aol


is the area of the i th joint in D (Fig. 1). The summation
in equation (1) is over all joints in D. Equivalently, joint
persistence can be expressed as a limit length ratio along
a given line on a joint plane. In this case,
K = lim-

AD

ODI - AREA OF INDIVIDUALJOINT


AD
AREA OF JOINT PLANE

* Professor, ?Associate Professor and ++Formerly Research Assistant


at: Department of Civil Engineering, Massachussetts Institute of
Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, U.S.A.
227

(2a)

in which Ls is the length of a straight line segment S and


E,, is the length of the i th joint segment in S; or for a
particular joint (Fig. 2),

TRADITIONAL DEFINITION OF JOINT


P E R S I S T E N C E AND A S S O C I A T E D
PROBLEMS

With reference to a joint plane (a plane through the


rock mass that contains a patchwork of discontinuities
and intact-rock regions), joint persistence K is usually

(i)

lim
]~ODI ,~ Jointed Area
AD-~m A D
Total Area

Fig. 1. Joint persistence.

EINSTEIN et al.: DISCONTINUITY PERSISTENCE AND SLOPE STABILITY

228

/~-'f

rock bridge

(RBR)
N-ECHELON

~:JL+ ZRBR

Fig. 4. En-echelonand in-plane failures.

Fig. 2. Joint persistence as length ratio.

where tan ~, and c,, so-called Jennings' equivalent


friction and cohesion parameters, are given by

ZJL
K - ZJL + ERBR"

(2b)

Another useful index of rock mass discontinuity is joint


intensity I, defined as the area of joints per unit rock
volume,
a i
i

I = lim - V,~

(3)

in which ai is the area of the i 'h joint in a 3-D region of


volume V.
Joint persistence can be used to estimate the strength
of a rock mass against sliding along a given plane: if the
plane of sliding has area A, then shearing resistance can
be adequately expressed as
Rr = (tr~ tan ~b~+ cr)A,

(4)

in the case of intact rock and


Rj = (a, tan 4~j+ cj)A,

(5)

in the case of completely jointed region. ~brand q~iare the


friction angles of intact rock and the joint respectively,
c~ and cj, the intact rock- and joint-cohesion. In both
cases, a, is the average normal stress across the region
of sliding. If the sliding region is partitioned into an
intact-rock portion of area A~ and a jointed portion of
area Aj = A - A~ (Fig. 3), then following Jennings [5] one
can evaluate the shear resistance to sliding, R, as a
weighted combination of R~ and Rj according to the
expression

A~

FAILURE

Aj

R = ~ - Rr + ~- Rj
= (tr~ tan q~, + c.)A,

(6)

c a = ( l - K) cr + Kcj,
tan Oa = (1 - K) tan 4). + K tan ~bj.

(7)

The use of equations (6) and (7) for shear resistance of


jointed rock masses has several shortcomings:
(1) Failure surfaces are restricted to .joint planes. Enechelon failures (Fig. 4), common in the field, are
neglected.
(2) Shear failure does not typically occurjbr the usually
low values ofaa. For example, for slopes of 30 m (100 ft)
height, tr~ is about 0.7MPa (100psi), whereas cr is
typically ten to hundred of MPa. If tr, is negligible, then
the major principal stress must exceed cr for shear failure
to occur (Fig. 5). This is unrealistic, as Lajtai [6] and
Stimpson [9] have pointed out. Also, peak shear resistance in the intact rock and on the joint probably are
not mobilized simultaneously.
(3) Small variations of persistence produce large variations of resistance. Therefore, even modest uncertainty
about persistence forces the designer to the conservative
assumption of 100% persistence.
To surmount these difficulties a new definition of persistence is required.
NEW CONCEPT OF PERSISTENCE
Any planar or non-planar surface (or "path") through
intact rock and joints in a rock mass (Fig. 4) constitutes
a potential failure surface (failure path) with associated
driving force L and resisting force R. For a given
configuration of the joint system and a given set of
strength parameters, there is a path of minimum safety
or "critical path" (Fig. 6). The critical path for a
particular joint configuration is that combination of
joint and intact-rock portions having the minimum
safety margin SM = R - L. If the SM for this path is
negative, the rock mass fails; otherwise it resists. Thus,
a critical path may or may not be a failure path. The
probability of failure Pf of a randomly-jointed rock mass
can be expressed as the limit of relative frequency of
failure across the spectrum of joint configurations,
P f = lira Nf

];o i

Aj

~'Oi+ ~'bi Aj4"Ar


Fig. 3. Jennings"relations.

Aj

in which N is the number of critical paths (failing and


not failing) and Nf is the number of critical paths for

EINSTEIN et al.:

DISCONTINUITY PERSISTENCE AND SLOPE STABILITY

229

Or

1"

Fig. 5, Mohr's circle at failure predicted by Jennings' relations at low stress levels.

which SM < 0 (the number of failure paths). Equation


(8) suggests a way to estimate Pf: using statistical
information on joint length and spacing distributions
one can simulate a number of networks of joints such as
that in Fig. 7 and then determine the SM for all possible
paths in each network or configuration. The critical path
for a configuration of the type in Fig. 7 is obtained by
identifying the path of minimum SM among all or
among a reasonable number of in-plane and en-echelon
paths. In some configurations the critical path will be a
failure path (SM ~< l) while in others it will not be

(SM > 1). Simulating many configurations (realizations)


represents various ways that joint populations with the
same spacing and length characterization may manifest,
and at the same time produces the parametrs N and Nf
for use in equation (8). In any one realization the SM for
the critical path can be used to calculate an apparent
persistence, and thus one obtains a relation between
resistance and apparent persistence for a rock mass
characterized by joint length and spacing distributions.
To date, these principles have been applied to 2-D
slope stability models in which the pattern of jointing,
and strength coefficients, are assumed similar for all
cross-sections: 3-D extensions for slope and tunnel applications have been limited [7].

Earlier probabilistic 2-D slope models


Call and Nicholas [l] and Giynn [3] have developed
methods of 2-D slope stability analysis that use statistical information on jointing and that allow for both
in-plane and en-echeion failures. The model of Call and
Nicholas considers two random joint sets. Given distributions of joint length and separation and of spacing

J/

~~-I~

,,Critical oath

-S/
Fig. 6. Critical paths for different joint configurations.

Fig. 7. Joint configuration and its critical path in a portion of the rock
mass.

230

EINSTEIN et al.:

D I S C O N T I N U I T Y PERSISTENCE AND SLOPE S T A B I L I T Y


path
angle

/Step = a
"
% Tensile

Failure

= "~- I00

Fig. 9. Rock slope with single set of parallel joints.

RANDOM VARIABLES
Length
Dip
Spacing

//;/

Apparent persistence depends explicitly on strength


along the path and implicitly on configuration. Repeated
simulation of the joint pattern yields in a distribution of
K, to be used in a probabilistic version of Jennings'
approach. The result is probability of slope failure.
Both previous models consider stochastic jointing and
failures occuring in plane or an echelon. Results are
expressed as probability distributions. The limitations of
these models are that they (1) apply to a specific rock
mass geometry and (2) use unsatisfactory, mechanical
models (i.e. shearing is ignored or unrealistically treated)
[7,2].

Matter Joint Set


Cross Joint Set

Overlap

Fig. 8. Call and Nicholas [1] model--general features.

between joint planes for each set, the procedure simulates


critical
"step-paths"
as
shown
in
Fig. 8. Specifically, for each simulated realization of the
joint network, "exit points" are identified (i.e. intersections of the shallow joint planes with the slope face),
and the critical step-path through each exit point is New probabilistic persistence modeI--SLOPESIM
SLOPESIM is a computer code for the analysis of
found. Critical paths are obtained by alternately following jointed segments, which fail in shear, and tensile rock slopes that contain one set of parallel joints (Fig.
fractures through the intact rock between joint planes. 9). SLOPESIM use Monte Carlo simulation to generate
Shear failure of intact rock bridges between joints is joint patterns ("realizations") in accordance with given
considered improbable except for extremely short probability distributions of joint length and plane spacbridges (<6cm). Faced with a choice among paths ing (corresponding to the statistical information on joint
through intact rock, the model chooses that with lowest length and spacing taken in surveys). For each exit point
angle. Through simulation of the jointing pattern, the the algorithm finds the path of minimum SM. Critical
model calculates the distribution of average step-path paths may be planar or may involve transitions to
angle and fraction of path containing jointed segments, overlying joint planes. The distribution of SM and in
the latter taken as a measure of persistence. These particular the probability of unstable paths (SM < 0)
distributions are conditioned on slope geometry, depend on the elevation of the exit joint. SLOPESIM
estimates the distribution and probability by grouping
strength parameters, and spacing.
Glynn's [2,3] JOINTSIM model generates joint net- exit points according to elevation intervals (Fig. 10). For
works with exponential distributions of spacing and example, the probability of unstable paths for the i th
length. The strength of intact rock bridges, in plane or elevation interval is calculated as:
en echelon, is determined by superimposing a negative
increment of horizontal stresses AaH and a positive
Pf, = ~ / ,
(10)
increment of shear stress Ar on the initial state of stress,
such that failure is caused. Using this calculated strength
of rock bridges and the resistance of the jointed segCritical paths
ments, the critical path for a given joint pattern is
calculated. "Apparent persistence" KS is defined as the
value of K along a joint plane that would have the same
resistance as the failure path,
Rr- R
K, - - Rr- Rj'

(9)

where
R=
Rj =
R~ =
Rr =

resistance
resistance
resistance
resistance

of failure path,
of joint plane if 100Yo persistence,
along joint path, if intact rock only.
along joint path, if intact rock only.

Fig. 10. Elevation intervals H,.

EINSTEIN et al.: DISCONTINUITY PERSISTENCE AND SLOPE STABILITY

.:,

A fundamental feature of Lajtai's model is in the


afiai0gy of shear resistance of intact rock bridges to
resistance in direct shear tests. At least for short intact
rock bridges, this analogy is justified by the assumption
of rigid body motion of the overlying unstable wedge in
the direction of jointing. In direct shear tests, the resistance of intact rock can be mobilized in one of two
ways:

~,% P'~M,

I /

. SMi Ri" Wiuzina

Fig. II. SLOPESIM method of slices.

pf, _ Nr~

Ni,

(10)

in which N, is the total number of simulated exit joints


(critical paths) in the ith elevation interval and Nf, is the
number of such exit joints associated with unstable
critical paths (i.e. failure paths). The identification of the
critical path through each exit point is performed
through a dynamic programming method: the algorithm
starts with the exit points on the top of the slope and
progresses backwards towards the exit points on the face
of the slope. During this backwards progression, the
algorithm considers all the physically realizable paths
through a discrete set of points, including the end points
of each joint. For more details on this procedure, see [3].
An important feature of SLOPESIM is the realistic
modeling of failure mechanisms. Driving and resisting
force calculations are based on the method of slices
which is common to many deterministic slope stability
methods (the method as applied here is simplified by
neglecting interslice forces). The principle is illustrated in
simplified form in Fig. 11: the slope overlying the failure
path is partitioned into a series of vertical slices,
bounded at their bottom end by joints or intact rock.
The total driving force L and the total resistance R are
calculated by summing slice contributions, i.e.
L = E W, sin ~,

R = ~ R~,

231

At relatively low stress levels (tra small), the application of shear stress in the direction of movement leads
to a minimum principal stress (r3 equal to the tensile
strength of intact rock. Hence in this case, failure
occurs by tensile fractures that develop at high angles
to the direction of sliding (Fig. 12a). Simultaneously
with the appearance of these fractures, peak shear
resistance za in the sliding direction is attained. Thereafter, shearing at residual stress values takes place in
the direction of sliding.
At higher normal stress levels, the minimum principal
stress does not exceed the tensile strength and failure
occurs when ra equals the shear resistance defined by
the Coulomb failure criterion. In this case, shear
fractures develop in the sliding direction at the time
when the applied shear stress is maximum (see Fig.
12b).
The two modes can be visualized by use of Mohr's
circle. In a direct sheart test, the center of Mohr's circle
remains at all times at trJ2 as the shear stress varies from
zero to the value at failure. For small (r~ (Fig. 13),
Mohr's circle becomes tangent to the failure envelope at
a = - T s , ~ = 0 and thus failure occurs in tension (Mode
1). For larger O'a, the center of Mohr's circle lies more to
the right and the point of first tangency is located on the
linear portion of the envelope. Thus, as shown in Fig. 14,
this mode of failure (mode 2) corresponds to shear
failure in the traditional formulation as used by Jennings
[5]. Both types of failure can occur, but Mode 2 probably
only in high slopes with weak intact rock. Thus, Mode
2 is neglected in the following discussion.
Failures may be in plane or out of plane (en echelon).
During in-plane failure, tension cracks develop first,

%
TO..._ ~
~- Primory tension
i l l / / ] ~ frocture (high ongle)
p t - - / - ~ - F - i i'--seon~..y ,o...ok.)
[/----,

j ir

shear frocture

o) FAILURE IN TENSION

(l I)

where ct is the angle of jointing, ~ is the weight of the


i th slice, and R~ is the peak shear force mobilized by the
portion of path underlying that slice. The ith portion of
the path may be jointed, in which case Ri can be
calculated through equation (5), or it may consist of
intact rock. In the latter case R~ is best calculated using
rock resistance criteria in Lajtai [6] and Einstein et al. [2].

%
~ . ~ L o w
I

angle primary ~Nlar

J~

b) FAILURE IN SHEAR

Fig. 12. Direct shear failure modes--after Lajtai [6].

232

EINSTEIN et al.:

Pointof

DISCONTINUITY PERSISTENCE AND SLOPE STABILITY

~ $ i ~~,L ~ x~n'T t failur


IN-PLANEFAILUREOFINTACTROCKPRIMARYTENSIONFRACTURES
@(et)TOJOINTPLANE

Fig. 13. Mohr's circle--failure by tensile fracturing (Mode 1).

/~

followed by secondary shear fractures (Fig. 15a and b).


The angle of the tension cracks 0t, can be obtained.from
Mohr's circle. The same mechanism applies to out-ofplane failures with low-angle transitions [with
(fl ~t) < 0,, see Fig. 16], whereas for high angle transitions a continuous tension crack occurs directly between
joints, without secondary shear fractures (Fig. 17).
Therefore, Mode 1 failures with initial tension fractures
encompass the entire range of geometrical conditions in
slopes with a single joint set, including in-plane as well
as low- and high-angle out-of-plane transitions.
In summary, intact-rock resistance R can be calculated as follows: For in-plane or low-angle out-of-plane
transitions (fl < 0, + ~),

shear fracture

Fig. 15. In-plane failure of intact rock--secondary shear fractures in


the joint plane.

R = r,d,

(12)

in which X is the distance between the joint planes that


define the bridge (Fig. 17) and Ts is the intact rock tensile
strength. The contributions to resistance from intact
rock bridges and from joint segments are added to
obtain the total resisting force associated with a given
path.
The driving force associated with the same path is
assumed to be due solely to the overburden weight; it is
therefore calculated as the sum of the driving force
contributions Li from each slice above a path segment
(Fig. I 1). If ~t denotes the angle of sliding (joint angle)
and W~ is the weight of the i 'h slice, then

in which d is the "in-plane length" of the rock bridge


(Fig. 16) and z, is the peak shear stress mobilized in the
L,= W, sin ~t
(15)
direction of jointing. In terms of the intact cohesion c~
The SM of a given path can thus be calculated. (The
and the ratio c = z,/c, the peak shear stress is
effect of cleft water pressure has not been included in the
r, = ~
+ I.
(13)
For high angle transition (/~ >1 O, + ~),
R = T~X,

cro

(]4)

~,tJ

Pointof

1.--Yl-

o\',,I

Tensile
~---'lf r o e t u r y
~ V ~

' ',,

singrOtofailure

fracture

O"

Fig. 14. Mohr's circle--failure by shear fracturing (Mode 2).

Fig. 16. Failure of "'low angle" (fl <(0 +~)) transitions through
intact rock.

EINSTEIN et al.:

DISCONTINUITY PERSISTENCE AND SLOPE STABILITY

cture

Fig. 17. Failure of high angle transitions through intact rock.

analysis. Although in principle simple to do, such a


feature would only be consistent if the spatial variability
in pressure distributions were expressed, which has not
been done so far.) SLOPESIM uses dynamic programming to scan the large number of potential failure
paths and to identify, for each "exit joint", the path with
minimum SM.
The program has been used to conduct a parametric
study of rock slope reliability, aimed at identifying
critical variables and at obtaining simple reliability
formulae. Results from the numerical analyses are summarized in the following sections.
PARAMETRIC STUDY OF SLOPE
RELIABILITY

Slope safety depends on a variety of parameters,


which for the most part describe geometry and resistance. In the course of the parametric study, these
parameters have been given values according to Table 1.
Slope safety resulting from the parametric studies has
been expressed in several terms:
(I) Failure Probability Pr(:), is defined as the ratio of

critical
paths
having
negative
SMs
to
all critical paths, as a function of the depth z (Fig. 18)
at which the paths daylight on the slope face. If a joint
plane daylights in height interval "i" on the slope face
(Fig. 10), the probability that at least one wedge belonging to this interval is unstable is Pf(zi) where ,j is the
vertical distance between the mid-point of the height
interval and the slope crest. At present, the only way to
calculate Pf(z) is through repeated Monte Carlo simulation of the network of joints. However, it is possible
to obtain analytical lower bounds to Pf(z). One such
bound, in many cases close to the exact value, is derived
in Appendix A.
(2) Probability Distribution of Apparent Persistence
Ka. Ka is the average persistence along an existing joint
plane that produces a SM equal to that of the associated
critical path, the plane and its critical path daylighting
at the same point on the slope face (the critical path may
be the particular joint plane or it may have an en echelon
shape involving other joint planes). It follows from the
definition that Ka is not smaller than the actual persistence of the plane, K. The probability distribution of
apparent persistence depends on depth. Of special interest is the variation with depth of the mean value mKd and
the standard deviation rx~, which together with the
critical persistence defined below are used to define a
second moment reliability index.
(3) Critical Persistence K,.. The critical path is unstable and failure occurs if/Ca exceeds the critical value of
persistence Kc which, in using the parameters in Table 1,
is given by

Table 1. Parameters and their ranges used in SLOPESIM parametric study


Parameter
Symbol
H
:
0
JL
RBR
__K
SP

Geometric parameters (see Fig. 18)


Slope height
Fixed 30m (100 ft)
Depth below slope apex
0-30m (0-100 ft)
Slope angle
50--90'
Mean joint length (joint length
3-12 m (10--40fl)
assumed exponentially distributed)
Mean rock bridge length
Not directly varied,
(rock bridge length assumed
considered by
exponentially distributed)
varying persistence
Mean joint plane persistence
10-73/0
Mean joint plane spacing (joint
0.6--3 m (2-10 ft)
plane spacing assumed exponentially
distributed)
Mean joint intensity, a derived
K
variable ) = SP
Joint plane angle
30-80

cj
~bj
7r

Unit weight

~b,

Value or
range

Definition

Resistance parameters
Intact-rock cohesion
(assumed to be twice the rock
tensile strength)
Intact-rock friction angle (not
important at low stress levels)
Joint cohesion
Joint friction angle

CF

233

0.30-24.0 MPa
(8-500 ksf)
Fixed 30~
Fixed 0
0-40

Other parameter
Fixed 2.2 g/cm 3
( 150 Ib/ft 3)

234

EINSTEIN et al.: DISCONTINUITY PERSISTENCE AND SLOPE STABILITY

3z

Fig. 18. Slope geometry for parametric study.

Kc=100

2c(tan~ - tan qS,)


x/~+l-2ctan4~,'

(16)

where
W cos a
C--

--

JLcr
(4) Second-Movement Reliability Index [3 is the number of standard deviations separating the mean K. from
the critical value Kc,
/3 - K~
mx__-____.___~"

(17)

For Fh.(K) the cumulative distribution function of apparent persistence at a given depth, the probability of
failure at that depth becomes

Pf = 1 - F~q (K~)
= 1 - Fx,(mK+/3ax,)

(18)

The sensitivity of these four safety measures to the


parameters of Table 1 has been studied by varying one
parameter at a time within the specified ranges, while
holding all the other parameters fixed at given values. Of
special interest is the dependence of Pr on depth z, which
is shown in Fig. 19. The same figure contains a plot of
the lower bound P~ (see equation A2 in the Appendix)
which for slope heights up to 30m (100ft) and for
typical values of c~ (c~/> 24 MPa (500 ksf)) provides a
good approximation to Pf (accuracy depends also__ on
other parameters, such as the mean joint length JL and
the friction angle for the joints, ~j). The parametric
study also revealed that dependence of Pr, mx, and 13 on
intact-rock strength c~ for depths up to 30 m (100 ft), is
small. This is a welcome result because it allows one to
calculate the reliability index/3 in equation (17) after a
single use of SLOPESIM to obtain representative values
of mx~ and aKo.
Similar sensitivity analyses were made with respect to
the other parameters of Table 1 (see [7]), leading to the
following conclusions:
The influence of strength parameters c, and q~j usually
dominates other parameters. Slopes with high values of
c, and q~j (c,>/24MPa (500ksf), % ~ a) tend to be
reliable at all depths investigated (up to 30m (100 ft)),
regardless of the other parameters. When c~ and q~j are
small, joint and slope geometry become important.
Among the joint geometry parameters (K, JL, SP), mean

persistence K has the largest influence. Changing the


mean joint length JL may also substantially modify P,
and/3 at any given depth, whereas mean joint spacing S-P
plays a less significant role. For small K (K < 30,;) P,
depends on K and S-P almost exclusively through the
ratio K/SP. which to first-order accuracy equals the
mean intensity 7.
Joint inclination, ~, has varying effect of reliability.
Values of ~ for which reliability is smallest are typically
around 45 . As ~ increases above this value, approaching
the slope angle, reliability increases due to the decrease
in driving force. This effect is especially significant in
slopes with weak intact rock (cr < 4.8 MPa (100 kst))
and weak joints ~bj<<~). Reliability increases also as
decreases from 45-, especially as it approaches %.
Slope depth z is a very significant parameter. For this
reason, probability of failure is presented here as Pf(z)
curves. Figure 20 shows a few such curves for different
slope parameter combinations and leads to two observations:
(1) The shape of Pr(z) does not vary much with any
parameter and displays a minimum at a "characteristic
depth", Zc. This depth is in some cases outside the range
shown. That Pf decreases with slope height before increasing again for H > zc seems at first glance to be
incorrect. However, the result is in fact correct: it is due
to the overriding part played by persistent portions of
joints for low slope heights (and thus small driving
forces). For fixed mean joint length JL the probability of
a 100% persistent joint increases as z decreases (at z = 0
the probability of failure equals the average persistence
K'!). Observations in nature are consistent with this
result. Natural slopes are often convex near the crest.
Although weathering effects play a role in this geometry,

50

Cr = 1,2- 24 MPo

~i =0"
8 = 60*
(Z=40*
Xr = Z,2 g/cm 3

40

d[=40
S'-P= I.Sm
K:50 %
1.2 MPa

3O

Pf (%)
2.4 M Pa

20
N

4.8 MPa

IO
Pc

0/
0
(o

I
7.5

I
15

I
27

30 m

25

50

75

ioo ft',

Z ~
F i g . 19. E f f e c t o f i n t a c t - r o c k

c o h e s i o n (cJ o n Pr(:)-

E I N S T E I N et al.: D I S C O N T I N U I T Y P E R S I S T E N C E A N D SLOPE S T A B I L I T Y

zc

Z -..--o-

235

DEC.

Z -~-'~,-

z .------~

Z -------~

t
\
I)

hc

Z -~4P-

Z ---4~

Z.~-

Z .-~-

Fig. 20. Probability of failure Pr as a function of slope depth z and of the other slope parameters.

the higher probability of a joint isolating a wedge near


the crest is significant.
(2) Pf(z) can often be approximated by Pl(z) (see
Appendix A), which is the probability that the joint
plane at depth z is 100% persistent. This approximation
is good either when Cr or q~jis high (~j ~ ~t or Cr > 24 MPa
(500 ks0). Also when both cr and ~j are small (q~j<<ac
and cr < 4.8 MPa (100 ksf)), the approximation remains
good for
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)
to 0.

Shallow depths [z ~<6-9 m (20-30 ft)]


Short joint length [JL ~<3-6 m (10-20 ft)]
Large joint-plane spacing [SP > 3 m (10 ft)]
Joint inclination angle ~t close to ~bj or

At very large depths, (on the order of 300 m (1000 ft), if


c, is very large) the approximation Pf(z)~ P~(z) loses
accuracy regardless of the other parameters.
The parametric analysis has been instrumental in
assessing the influence on reliability of strength and
geometry parameters. Critical parameter combinations
that lead to failure have been identified. These parameters (e.g. J---Land ~" if cr and ~bj are small) should be
accurately determined.

EXTENSION OF THE SLOPESIM APPROACH


In its present form, the model is limited to slopes with
a single parallel set of joints and neglects 3-D effects.
However, extensions are possible. For example, Shair [8]
has developed a version of SLOPESIM for two parallel
joint sets. As expected, reliability is smaller than in
otherwise comparable cases with a single joint set, the
magnitude of the safety decrease depending on the
particular parameter combination. A first attempt at
including the third, along-slope dimension has been
made by O'Reilly [7], but more work is needed. Also, the
RUM

s. 20/5--c

mechanical models of joint and intact-rock failures can


certainly be improved. Finally, procedures of the type
used here for slopes have potential application in rockmass stability problems in tunnelling and can be extended to problems of rock-mass deformation and flow.

CONCLUSIONS
Joint persistence has a major effect on rock-mass
resistance, and yet, it is difficult to define a persistence
parameter simply and directly related to resistance.
First, joint geometry internal to a rock mass is not
known with certainty, and second, failure involves a
combination of mechanisms, including shearing along
joints and failure through intact rock, either in plane or
en-echelon.
The proposed approach expressed probability of rockslope failure as a function of joint geometry and intact
rock and joint resistance. Spatial variability of joint
geometry is taken into account by making use of statistical information obtained from standard joint surveys.
Probability of failure as derived with the SLOPESIM
approach or the related expression of apparent persistence thus makes it possible to represent the effect of
joint persistence directly.
Parametric studies show the relations between rockslope reliability (l-Pf) and various mechanical and geometric parameters; graphs of probability of failure vs
slope height are particularly illustrative. An important
result is the indication of when strength parameters are
more important than geometry, and vice versa.
Although an initial step, the proposed approach
promises insights into a major problem in rock mechanics.

Received 22 December 1982; revised 20 May 1983.

236

EINSTEIN et al.:

D I S C O N T I N U I T Y PERSISTENCE A N D SLOPE STABILITY

REFERENCES
1. Call R. D. and Nicholas D. E. Prediction of step path failure
geometry for slope stability analysis. Proc. 19th U.S. Syrup. on Rock
Mechanics (1978).
2. Einstein H. H. et al. Risk analysis for rock slopes in open pit
mines, Parts I-V, USBM Technical Rept J0275015 (1980).
3. Glynn E. F. A probabilistic approach to the stability of rock
slopes, Ph.D. dissertation, M.I.T. (February, 1979).
4. Hasofer A. M. and Lind N. C. Exact and invariant second moment
code format. A S C E J. Engng Mech. Die. 100, 111-121, No. EMI,
Proc. Paper 10376 (February, 1974).
5. Jennings J. E. A mathematical theory for the calculation of the
stability of open cast mines. Proc. Symp. on the Theoretical Background to the Planning o f Open Pit Mines, pp. 87-102, Johannesburg
(1970).
6. Lajtai E. Z. Strength of discontinuous rocks in shear. Geotechnique
19(2), 218-233 (1969).
7. O'Reilly K. J. The effect of joint phase persistence on slope
reliability, M.Sc. thesis, M.I.T., 553 pp (1980).
8. Shair A. K. The effect of two sets of joints on rock slope reliability,
M.Sc. thesis, M.I.T.. 307pp (1981).
9. Stimpson D. Failure of slopes containing discontinuous planar
joints. Proc. 19th U.S. Syrup. on Rock Mechanics, pp. 246-300
(1978).
APPENDIX

An analytical lower bound to the probability o f slope failure


The probability of failure, Pf(z) has been defined as the fraction of
unstable critical paths that daylight at depth z. Lower bounds to Pf(z)
can be obtained by constraining the geometry of the critical path and
the pattern of jointing that can produce failure. One such bound is
obtained here under the following conditions: with reference to Fig.
A l, failure of the joint plane exiting at : can occur only if:
(1) The joint plane AA' is 100% persistent, i.e. L~ >/L, and failure
is by sliding along AA'.
(2) The joint plane AA' is not completely jointed; however, the next
joint plane BB' is completely jointed (100% persistent) and the distance
(D) between the joint planes is sufficiently small (smaller than a critical
distance D,). Failure occurs by sliding along the jointed segment of
AA', fracturing through intact rock to connect to BB' and sliding
along BB'.
(3) Only parts of AA' and BB' are jointed but the jointed parts
overlap or are equal to L (L~ + L~/> L). and the distance D is smaller

Fig. AI. Geometry for analytical lower bound to Pf(2).


than De. Failure occurs by sliding along the two jointed portions and
a connecting fracture through intact rock.
Because these three failure events are mutually exclusive, the probability Pc that any one of them occurs is the sum of their individual
probabilities (Pt, P2, and P3) and
Pf(z ) >1 Pc(z) = Pl(z ) + P2(z ) + P3(z )

(AI)

Let ~1: be the mean joint length, ~


the mean rock bridge length,
~" = ]'L/(J[ + R-]~) the mean joint plane persistence and g]5 the
average spacing between joint planes. Also denote by D c the critical
joint separation that corresponds to unstable wedges in cases 2 and 3
(note that D c is stress-dependent and thus dependent on its location in
the slope. Since the following approximation omits /)2 and P3, no
further consideration of D c is necessary). Thus, using Glynn's [3]
probabilistic model of joints, one finds the following expression for P~,
P2, and P3:
P~ = K e -L'E = K" e -::dL~') = K e -:'jL ~n'~
P, = (I - Pi) PI( 1 - e- Dc/sP)

Figure 19 showed Pi and Pc derived with SLOPES1M as a function of


depth and of intact-rock strength c r (Pt does not depend on c,), while
all other parameters are kept constant. As c r increases, Pc becomes
closer to P~ because in the limit, as cr-* ~ , failure can occur only if a
joint plane is 100% persistent (Mode 1). The probability PI is thus a
simple and often good approximation to Pf[2,7].