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Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

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Engineering Geology
j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s e v i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / e n g g e o

Inltration analysis to evaluate the surcial stability of two-layered slopes


considering rainfall characteristics
Sung Eun Cho
Korea Institute of Water and Environment, 462-1, Jeonmin-Dong, Yusung-Gu, Daejon 305-730, Republic of Korea

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 21 July 2008
Received in revised form 7 December 2008
Accepted 19 December 2008
Available online 3 January 2009
Keywords:
Inltration
Unsaturated soil
Slope stability
Seepage
Rainfall
Suction

a b s t r a c t
Shallow slope failures in residual soil during periods of prolonged inltration are common throughout
the world. Using a one-dimensional inltration model and an innite slope analysis, this study examines an
approximate method of determining how inltration inuences the surcial stability of two-layered slopes.
The method extends Moore's inltration model, which is based on the GreenAmpt model, to cover more
general situations, including those where water moves upward from a perched water table in decreasingly
permeable soil. The method has also been used to evaluate the likelihood of a shallow slope failure being
induced by a particular rainfall event. In making this evaluation, the method takes into accounts the rainfall
intensity and duration of various return periods in a two-layered soil prole. A comparison of the results of
the inltration model with the results of numerical analyses shows that, with the use of properly estimated
input parameters, the proposed model compares reasonably well with other model that rely on more
rigorous nite element method.
2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Rainfall leads to the development of a perched water table, a rise in
the main groundwater level, and surface erosion; and, as the moisture
content increases, the unit weight increases. Moreover, the instability
of unsaturated residual soil slopes during wet periods is common
throughout the world (Morgenstern and de Matos, 1975; Fukuoka,
1980; Brand, 1984; Vargas et al., 1986; Kim et al., 1991). These failures
are generally shallow and the failure surfaces are usually parallel to
the slope surface. Therefore, this paper reviews an innite slope
analysis to estimate the inuence of inltration on surcial stability of
slopes by the limit equilibrium method.
A better understanding of the process of rain inltration and its
effects on unsaturated soils is closely related to the assessment of
slope stability. To estimate the hydraulic response, continual eld
monitoring of the groundwater conditions is needed to avoid difculties in obtaining the parameters required for theoretical analyses.
In most cases, however, it is not feasible to continually monitor
changes in eld conditions (Sun et al., 1998).
On the other hand, during the past few decades, many analytical
and numerical solutions to the unsaturated ow equation have been
developed and have become a necessary tool. Although a considerable
amount of research has been conducted to clarify the various failure
mechanisms based on these solutions (Collins and Znidarcic, 2004;
Zhan and Ng, 2004), it is still difcult to develop a theoretical framework that incorporates these various failure mechanisms.
Tel.: +82 42 870 7632; fax: +82 42 870 7639.
E-mail address: drsecho@hanmail.net.
0013-7952/$ see front matter 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.enggeo.2008.12.007

One way to evaluate the effect of inltration is to use onedimensional inltration models. These models are based on widely
accepted concepts of soil physics and are relatively easy to use.
However, for simplication, most of these models are limited to cases
with uniform initial conditions and homogeneous soils. Because the
natural soil prole is typically nonhomogeneous, the approximations
developed for homogeneous soils have been adapted to show how
inltration behaves in layered soils.
The main objective of this study, mainly focuses on a decreasing
conductivity soil prole, is to propose an approximate method of
evaluating the likelihood that a particular rainfall will induce a shallow
failure in a two-layered slope. The method takes into account the
rainfall intensity and the duration of various return periods. To capture
the principal mechanisms involved when water inltrates two-layered
soil slopes, the results of a series of nite element analyses of a onedimensional seepage ow are presented. On the basis of these results,
this paper presents an inltration model that is an extended form
of Moore's inltration model to evaluate how water inltrates twolayered slopes under various intensities of rainfall.
2. Analysis of the slope stability in relation to inltration
2.1. Slope failures due to rain inltration
According to previous studies on the way rain inltration affects
the stability of slopes, rain induces a rise in the groundwater level
and an increase in pore pressure, both of which decrease the effective
stress and shear strength, thereby resulting in slope failures. Hence,
most traditional analyses of slope stability incorporate rainfall

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

33

Fig. 1. Innite slope failure in a two-layered soil prole.

inuences; that is, they change the groundwater ow patterns with


increasing pressure heads and they often assume that the phreatic
surface rises to coincide with the surface of the slope (Collins and
Znidarcic, 2004). However, it is now well known that slope failures
also occur when the shear strength provided by matric suction
decreases enough to trigger the failures (Brooks and Richards, 1994;
Rahardjo et al., 1994; Terlien, 1998; Van Asch et al., 1999).
When rainwater inltrates through an unsaturated zone, the
advancement of the wetted zone near the slope surface may lead to
failure during periods of prolonged rainfall. These failures are usually
characterized by shallow failure surfaces that develop parallel to the
slope surface (Rahardjo et al., 1994; Fourie et al., 1999). A simple
innite slope analysis method can therefore be used to estimate the
factor of safety.
For two-layered soil slopes with a surface layer of thickness L1, the
limit equilibrium method can be readily applied to calculate the factor
of safety as shown in Fig. 1. The shear resistance that is associated with
the net normal stress and the matric suction within the slice mass can
be characterized as follows by the modied MohrCoulomb failure
criterion (Fredlund et al., 1978) for unsaturated soil:
f
c V + n ua tan/V+ ua uw tan/b
=
1
m
m


2c V
tan/V
2ua tan/V
=
+

tan
f 1 L1 + 2 zw L1 g sin2
f 1 L1 + 2 zw L1 g sin2

Fs =

2ua uw tan/b
f 1 L1 + 2 zw L1 g sin2

where m is the shear stress at any point along the slip surface, f is
the shear strength at the corresponding point, is the slope angle, W
is the weight of a slice with unit width, c is the cohesion intercept, n
is the total normal stress, ua is the pore air pressure, uw is the pore
water pressure, (n ua) is the net normal stress, (ua uw) is the
matric suction, is the effective angle of friction, and b is the angle
that denes how the shear strength increases with the increase in
matric suction. If the soil is fully saturated at a certain depth, then the
air pressure becomes equal to the water pressure (that is, ua = uw).
This approach uses two independent stress variables that enable a
consistent approach to be used when analyzing stability, irrespective
of whether the pore pressures are positive or negative. In this
equation, the rst term is related to the cohesion, the second term is
related to the effective angle of friction, and the last term is related to
the matric suction.
When an advancing wet front from rainfall inltration saturates the
upper soil layer, if the rainfall intensity is greater than the hydraulic

conductivity of the sublayer, a rise in the ground water table may occur.
The rise in the ground water table induces the condition of a ow
parallel to the slope and hydrostatic state, resulting in the following
expression for the pore pressure at a depth of zw from the water table:
2

uw = w zw cos

where w is the unit weight of water. Then Eq. (1) can be reduced to
the classical solution for innite slope in the saturated slope.
When the effective cohesion of soil is zero (c = 0), and the slope
angle () is greater than or equal to the effective internal friction angle
of the soil (), the unsaturated soil slope fails from a loss of apparent
cohesion upon saturation of the soil by the inltrating wetting front.
In this case, failure from a reduction in the shear strength because of a
rise in the ground water table or the occurrence of a perched water
table is unlikely since the slope can only be stable with the shear
strength due to the matric suction that fully disappears before
saturation is achieved. However, if the slope angle does not exceed the
effective friction angle of the soil, slopes are not susceptible to failure
from the loss of matric suction since the slopes remain stable without
the additional shear strength due to the matric suction; yet the slopes
will fail from a reduction in the effective stress in the saturated
condition that results in the reduction in the shear strength of soil.
When a slope possess an effective cohesion component (c), and
the effective cohesion of the soil is adequate, even a partially saturated
slope with a slope angle that is greater than the effective friction angle
can remain stable in spite of a complete loss of apparent cohesion.
However, even these types of slopes would fail in the saturated
condition if an increase in pore pressure reduces the effective stress
(Sudhakar, 1996).
3. Inltration model
A key factor that dominates slope stability is the hydrological
response associated with inltration. Hence, the soilwater prole
must be reviewed during rainfall inltration of unsaturated soil to
evaluate the effect of inltration on slope stability. Due to the
complexity of the problem, numerical methods, such as the nite
element method, are commonly used to solve the partial differential
equation that governs the seepage. However, to get solutions for
various boundary conditions is laborious and computationally expensive as the numerical solution requires an implicit iterative technique
with ne spatial and time discretisation.
Another way to evaluate the effect of inltration is to use a onedimensional inltration model. Green and Ampt (1911) rst derived
a physically based model by describing the inltration capacity of a soil
for ponded surfaces. The GreenAmpt model has received considerable

34

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

attention in recent years and, although it is an approximate equation,


it has been shown to have a theoretical basis, as well as measurable
parameters.
Mein and Larson (1973) developed a simple two-stage model
for predicting inltration before and after surface ponding; they
based their model on the GreenAmpt model by assuming the initial
moisture content was uniform under rainfall with a constant intensity.
On the basis of the one-dimensional solution, Morgenstern and de
Matos (1975), Lumb (1975) and Gavin and Xue (2008) calculated the
advancement of the wetting front, and Vargas et al. (1986) studied the
importance of the rate of rainfall on slope stability. In the method of
Pradel and Raad (1993), which is based on the GreenAmpt model,
two conditions must be satised to saturate the soil to the critical
depth at which the slope can fail. These conditions are, rstly, that the
rain intensity must be greater than the inltration capacity of the soil
and, secondly, that the rainfall must be longer than the critical time
necessary to saturate the soil to the critical depth. Fourie et al. (1999)
applied the method of Pradel and Raad to a eld problem.
The approximate method of Cho and Lee (2002) is a modied form
of the Pradel and Raad method. Based on the Mein and Larson model,
the method of Cho and Lee takes into account the rainfall intensity and
duration of various return periods in order to evaluate the likelihood
that a particular rainfall will induce a shallow slope failure.
Although these methods are limited by the assumption that rainfall
inltrates homogeneous soil, the approximate methods provide a
practical tool for assessing the hydraulic response to inltration.
3.1. Hydraulic characteristics
There are two important hydraulic properties associated with
inltration into unsaturated soils, namely, the soilwater characteristic
curve and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity. A complete description of
the inltration process entails the characterization of these properties.
The soilwater characteristic curve relates the water content of a
soil to the matric suction, and a number of empirical and semiempirical functions have been proposed in the past to represent the
soilwater characteristic curves.
The unsaturated hydraulic conductivity that varies with the soil
water content is usually predicted on the basis of the measured soil
water characteristic curve due to the difculty associated with the
measurement of unsaturated hydraulic conductivity. The variation
of unsaturated hydraulic conductivity is commonly represented by
the relative hydraulic conductivity function, which represents a ratio
of the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity to the saturated hydraulic
conductivity.

Although the natural soil prole is typically nonhomogeneous


and the hydraulic conductivity may progressively change with depth
according to the degree of weathering, few applications of the Green
Ampt equation to consider the progressive change in the hydraulic
conductivity have been developed due to the complexity of the problem and the basic assumption of the GreenAmpt model. Only a
few researches that conceptualize the soil prole by dividing it into
multiple internally homogeneous layers have been conducted
(Bouwer, 1969; Childs and Bybordi, 1969).
In this study, the proposed model based on the GreenAmpt model
assumes a piston-type water content prole with a well-dened wetting
front; therefore, the approximations developed for homogeneous
soils have also been adapted to show how inltration behaves in layered
soils.
4.1. Moore's model
Fig. 2 shows the conceptual two-layered soil prole used in the
derivation of Moore's model. The soil consists of a surface layer of
thickness L1, with an initial moisture decit, 1, and the soil is
characterized by hydraulic conductivity, K1. Below this layer, the soil is
homogeneous and semi-innite with an initial moisture decit, 2.
The soil is also characterized by hydraulic conductivity in the wetted
zone of K2.
When the rainfall has a constant intensity, i, that is greater than the
saturated hydraulic conductivity of the soil, the governing equations
can be expressed as follows: f = i until t = tp, where tp = Fp/i and Fp is
given by either
Fp =

1 f1
;
i = K1 1

Fp =

H Ei = K2
+ F1 ;
i = K2 1

zp = Fp = 1 for zp V L1 or

zp =

Fp L1 1 2
for zp > L1 ; 4
2

where f = the inltration rate, F =the cumulative inltration, Fp =


the cumulative inltration at the time of the surface ponding,
H = 2(L1 + f2), E = L12(K2/K1), F1 = L11, zp = the depth of
the wetting front at the time of the surface ponding, tp =the time of the
surface ponding, f1 =the suction head at the wetting front in the surface,
and f2 =the suction head at the wetting front in the subsurface layer.

4. Inltration of two-layered soils


To model the inltration process in a layered soil under an
unsaturated condition has been a great concern in many engineering
and scientic elds related to soils (Srivastava and Yeh, 1991; Choo
and Yanful, 2000). Although some analytical and conceptual models
for transient vertical inltration in layered soils have been presented,
the solutions are too complex for practical applications.
Extensions of the GreenAmpt approach to describe the inltration in nonuniform soils have been made (Bouwer, 1969; Childs and
Bybordi, 1969; Fok, 1970; Ahmed et al., 1980; Moore and Eigel, 1981;
Moore, 1981; Flerchinger et al., 1988). However, few have been applied
to the problem of slope stability analysis.
Moore (1981) modied the Mein and Larson model to describe
inltration for delayed ponding with nonuniform soils when the constant intensity of the rainfall is greater than the saturated hydraulic
conductivity of the soil. According to Moore and Eigel (1981), the
model shows good to excellent agreement with the numerical model,
thereby indicating that Moore's model closely represents the performance of the Richards' equation.

Fig. 2. Conceptual water content prole for two-layered soil.

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

35

For t > tp the inltration capacity is given by either




1 f1
for zw V L1 or
f = K1 1 +
F



H + F F1
for zw > L1 ;
E + F F1

f = K2

where zw = the depth of the wetting front. The corresponding


cumulative inltrations are given by either


F + f1 1
F = Fp + K1 t tp + f1 1 ln
Fp + f1 1



F + H F1
F = Fp + K2 t tp E H ln
Fp + H F1

for zw V L1 or 7
!
for zw > L1 :

Eqs. (7) and (8) are implicit, and can therefore be solved by an
iterative procedure or by the method presented in Appendix A.
4.2. Model parameters

Fig. 3. Conceptual water content prole for two-layered soil (K2 b i b K1).

For Moore's model, the following parameters must be estimated:


K1, K2, 1, 2, f1 and f2. The moisture decit from saturation, 1,
is specied as the initial condition when considering the antecedent
moisture contents. If the effect of air entrapment is unimportant, the
value of the hydraulic conductivity above the wetting front K1 is the
saturated hydraulic conductivity. The suction head at the wetting
front, f1, is a function of the soil water content and can be determined
from experimental measurements or from the following equation
(Mein and Farrel, 1974):
Z
i
f =
Kr d;
9
0

where i corresponds to the suction value at the initial moisture


content and Kr is the relative hydraulic conductivity function.
Estimates of K2, 2 and f2 depend on whether the prole of the
two-layer soil consists of ne-over-coarse stratication or coarseover-ne stratication. For the coarse-over-ne stratication, the ne
lower layer restricts the inltration of the prole, and both layers will
be saturated. Therefore, for this case, K2 is the saturated hydraulic
conductivity, 2 is the moisture decit from saturation and f2 is
dened by Eq. (9) for the lower layer (Moore, 1981).
For the ne-over-coarse stratication, the surface layer restricts
inltration, and the coarse lower layer is not saturated. A procedure is
then needed to estimate the moisture content and the corresponding
hydraulic conductivity in the lower layer. Moore (1981) derived the
following equation by considering steady state inltration in twolayered proles of ne-over-coarse stratication:
K2
K
= 1;
w + L1
L1

10

where (w) = the matric suction head immediately below the


surface layer.
Using the soilwater characteristic curve (SWCC), the hydraulic
conductivity curve and the known values of L1 and K1, the remaining
parameters can be evaluated by solving Eq. (10) by trial and error.
4.3. Extension of Moore's inltration model
Moore's inltration model can be applied when the constant
intensity, i, of the rainfall is greater than the saturated hydraulic
conductivities in the prole. However, in the coarse-over-ne stratication, the surface ponding can also occur as a result of the upward
movement of the water because the rainfall intensity may be greater
than the saturated hydraulic conductivity of the lower layer but

smaller than the saturated hydraulic conductivity of the upper layer.


Fig. 3 shows the conceptual moisture prole for the condition
of K2 b i b K1. Fig. 3 implies that if the application rate has a value
somewhere between the lowest and highest hydraulic conductivity in
the prole, then subsurface saturation occurs at the interface. If water
application is continued, then the upward movement of the water
from the perched water table eventually saturates the surface. Zhan
and Ng (2004) referred to this effect of soil heterogeneity on the basis
of the analytical solution of Srivastava and Yeh (1991).
In such case, the inltration processes can be conveniently broken
down into the following four conceptual stages, which is conrmed
to be reasonable from the results of numerical analysis in a later
section:
(a) Stage I: Until the time t1 when the wetting front reaches the
interface between the soil layers (t t1)
Because the rainfall intensity is smaller than the inltration capacity of the soil, all the rain will inltrate the soil without any runoff
(f = i, F = it). Thus, the time at which the wetting front reaches the
interface can be calculated as follows:
t1 =

1VL1
;
i

11

where 1 = 1o 1i is dened as the difference between the new and


initial volumetric water content.
The new volumetric water content at the surface differs from
the saturated volumetric water content in the upper soil, 1s,
because the surface ponding does not occur during this stage.
Careful consideration is therefore needed to evaluate the volumetric
water content at the surface. If the rain falls on the surface, a wetting front is created in the soil. Thus, according to Darcy's law, the
hydraulic gradient at the wetting front abruptly increases to deliver
the applied rainwater because the hydraulic conductivity in the
unsaturated soil is far smaller than the intensity of the applied
rainfall. As the rain continues to fall, the hydraulic gradient decreases
and consequently becomes equal to unity or very close to unity for a
substantial portion of the soil (Sun et al., 1998) because the hydraulic
conductivity of the soil increases to a value that is numerically
equal to the intensity of the applied rainfall behind the wetting front.
The matric suction that corresponds to the value that is numerically
equal to the intensity of the rainfall can be estimated from the
hydraulic conductivity function. As a result, the volumetric water

36

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

content, 1o, which corresponds to the matric suction, is determined


from the SWCC.
(b) Stage II: From t1 to t2 when subsurface ponding occurs
(t1 b t t2)
All the rain will inltrate the lower soil layer because the intensity
of the rainfall is still smaller than the inltration capacity of the soil
(f = i, F = it). Subsurface saturation eventually occurs at the interface,
however, because the application rate is greater than the saturated
hydraulic conductivity of the lower layer. The time of subsurface
ponding can then be calculated as follows:
t2 =

K2 2 2f
+ t1 :
ii K2

12

The corresponding depth of the wetting front is


it L1 V
1
zw = L1 + 2
:
2

13

(c) Stage III: From t2 to t3 when surface ponding occurs (t2 b t t3)
Once the subsurface saturation occurs, excess water starts to accumulate in the upper layer because the inltration capacity of the lower
layer monotonically decreases with time until the minimum inltration
capacity is reached. If the water application continues, the upward water
movement from the perched water table nally reaches the surface and
surface saturation occurs. Before the surface ponding, the inltration rate
of the two-layered soil is equal to the application rate (f =i, F=it).
The excess water that accumulates in the upper layer, R, during the
period from t2 to t3 is calculated as
R=

Zt3 


i f dt = it3 t2 F;

relative hydraulic conductivity is represented by the Gardner equation


(Gardner, 1958):

 
n  m
u uw
= r + s r 1 + a a
w


  1
u uw
;
Kr = 1 + V a
w

5.1. Example 1: Application to a two-layered slope


In this example, two types of soil, namely sand and silt were
considered. Fig. 4 shows the SWCCs and the relative hydraulic conductivity functions for each soil. The properties have been selected as
a representative for ne-grained and coarse-grained soils since twolayer soil systems that consist of ne-grained and coarse-grained soils
have been widely studied due to the contrasting hydraulic characteristics of the soils. Soilwater characteristic curves for ne-grained soils
may be relatively at, while for coarse-grained soils the function may
be quite steep, such that as soon as the soil desaturates, the hydraulic
conductivity drops dramatically.

14

where f is the inltration capacity through the less permeable lower

layer and F is the cumulative inltration between the time of t2 and


t3 through the lower layer (see Appendix A). Moreover, an additional
amount of water, S, which can be absorbed by the upper layer after the
subsurface ponding, is calculated as
15

1= 1s 1o

is the moisture decit from the saturation


where
expressed as the difference between the volumetric water contents
before and after the upward wetting in the surface layer.
Because the surface ponding occurs when R becomes equal to S
and the pressure head at the surface becomes zero, the time of the
incipient surface ponding can be computed as
t3 = 1W L1 + F + it2
i:

16

The corresponding depth of the wetting front at the surface ponding is


zp = L1 +

it3 L1 1
:
2

17

(d) Stage IV: After t3 (t3 b t)


Eqs. (6) and (8) can be applied after the surface ponding because
the inltration capacity decreases with time as the wetting front goes
deeper into the soil.
5. Application of the inltration model to slope stability
To illustrate the procedure for estimating the inltration process in
two-layered slopes, the extended model was applied to two examples.
As shown in the following equations, the SWCC is represented by
using the van Genuchten function (van Genuchten, 1980), and the

19

where r and s = the residual and saturated volumetric water


content, respectively; a, n, and m = constants; and and
= constants.

t2

S = 1W L1 ;

18

Fig. 4. Example1: Hydraulic properties for analysis.

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

37

Table 1
Example 1: Parameters for SWCC and hydraulic conductivity function.
Soil type

Fine sand
Silt

SWCC

Hydraulic
conductivity
function

11.31
9.88 10 4

4.03
7.38

0.185
0.0

0.346
0.373

1.841
0.426

6.442
40.057

0.229
0.041

Table 1 tabulates the parameters for the SWCC and the relative
hydraulic conductivity function. It was assumed that the initial matric
suction was 30 kPa through the depth and that the thickness of the
surface layer was 0.5 m. Next, because the inltration behavior in the
layered soil depends on whether the prole is increasingly permeable
or decreasingly permeable, both the coarse-over-ne stratication
and the ne-over-coarse stratication were examined. Table 2 presents the estimated input data for the inltration model.
The mechanical properties of the soils to calculate the factor of
safety were also presented in Table 2.
5.1.1. Analysis for a decreasing conductivity prole
Fig. 5 shows the typical results from a one-dimensional nite
element analysis using SEEP/W (Geo-Slope, 2003) under the condition of K1 b i. The results show that the rainfall inltrates the soil and
that eventually surface ponding occurs (Fig. 5(a) and (b)). If the rain
continues to fall after the ponding, positive pore pressure (a perched
water table) develops in the upper layer (Fig. 5(a)). Fig. 5(c) shows
that the hydraulic gradient increases sharply at the wetting front, and
that the largest gradient occurs when the wetting front passes the
interface. The gradient in the lower layer is not so high because the
hydraulic conductivity of the silt changes more gradually.
Results for the condition of K2 b i b K1 show that the conceptual
moisture prole presented in Fig. 3 is reasonable (Fig. 6(b)). That is,
the upward saturation starts when subsurface ponding occurs at the
interface and eventually surface ponding occurs (Fig. 6(a)). Fig. 6(c)
indicates that the hydraulic gradients behind the wetting front in the
upper layer are near to unity before the wetting front passes the
interface, as mentioned in the previous section (Section 4.3).
Fig. 7(a) shows the inltration diagram for different rainfall
intensities that are greater than K1. If the applied rainfall intensity
is smaller than the inltration capacity of the soil, then all the rain will
inltrate the soil. Once the surface saturation occurs, the runoff starts
and the inltration capacity decreases monotonically with time until
the minimum inltration capacity, K2, is reached. Fig. 7(a) also compares the inltration model and the numerical model for different
rainfall intensities. Given the basic assumptions of both models, the
comparative performance of the inltration model is acceptable.
Fig. 7(b) shows the inltration diagram for different rainfall
intensities that are greater than the saturated hydraulic conductivity
of the lower layer but smaller than the saturated hydraulic conductivity
of the surface layer, that is, when K2 b i b K1. In the diagram, the time

Table 2
Example 1: Input parameters for the analysis
Parameters for the inltration model
K1 (cm/h)

K2 (cm/h)

f1 (cm) f2 (cm)

Coarse/ne 1.55 (4.31106 m/s) 0.09 (2.50107 m/s) 0.15 0.14 60.64
Fine/coarse 0.09 (2.50107 m/s) 0.22 (6.11107 m/s) 0.14 0.08 251.78

251.78
76.96
Fig. 5. Example 1: Results of numerical analyses for coarse-over-ne stratications (K1 b i).

Mechanical properties
Sand
Silt

t (kN/m3)

c (kPa)

()

b ()

19
19

0
10

35
25

15
10

38

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

Fig. 7. Example 1: Inltration diagram of uniform rainfall conditions for coarse-over-ne


stratications.

Fig. 6. Example 1: Results of numerical analyses for coarse-over-ne stratications (K2 bibK1).

when the wetting front reaches the interface (t1), the time of subsurface
ponding at the interface (t2), and the time of surface ponding (t3) are
indicated, respectively. The results also agree well with the results of the
numerical model.
The relationship between the time of surface ponding and the
corresponding depth of the wetting front for rainfall intensities can be
determined by using the proposed inltration model as summarized
in Fig. 8. Curve B in Fig. 9 shows the time of surface ponding as a
function of the rainfall intensity, along with the intensityduration
frequency curve. The curve can be obtained by calculating the time of
surface ponding for rainfall intensities larger than the saturated
hydraulic conductivity K2. If K1 b i, then the time of surface ponding
and the corresponding depth of the wetting front can be calculated
from Eqs. (3) and (4). If K2 b i K1, then the time of surface ponding
and the corresponding depth of the wetting front can be calculated
from Eqs. (16) and (17). Each point on the curve provides a minimum
requirement for saturation (imin, tmin) to the corresponding depth zp.
That is, to saturate the soil to the corresponding depth zp, the rainfall
intensity must be greater than imin and the rainfall must last longer
than tmin. Fig. 9 therefore indicates that only the rainfall above curve B
can saturate the soil to the corresponding depth of the wetting front
indicated in Fig. 10.
The corresponding depth of the wetting front at incipient surface
ponding is a function of the rainfall intensity. This is shown in Fig. 10,
with the shallower depth being associated with the higher intensity,
and, therefore, the earlier time of ponding.
The factor of safety associated with various depths of the wetting
front can be calculated easily by using Eq. (1). The detailed equations
derived from Eq. (1) are presented in Fig. 11. The results are

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

39

Fig. 8. Flow diagram to determine the time of surface ponding and the corresponding depth of the wetting front for uniform rain.

requirement of rainfall for saturation to a depth of 0.5 m by the


proposed method is shown in Figs. 9 and 10. The limiting condition
plotted as point A that moves on the curve B was Tmin = 2.19 h and
imin = 3.425 cm/h from Eq. (3) (Fig. 9). This statistically means that
rainfall intensities greater than imin = 3.425 cm/h have to last at least
2.19 h in order to saturate up to a depth of 0.5 m (point C in Fig. 10).

presented in Fig. 11 for depths from 0 to 3 m for a slope angle of 35.


From the gure, the effect of inltration on slope stability can be
seen to reduce the factor of safety after sufcient advancement of the
wetting front.
According to the analysis of slope having slope-parallel layers by
Cho and Lee (2001), a saturated slope-parallel ow in the upper layer
of the slope was formed due to a perched water table caused by the
presence of an underlying less permeable layer. They showed that the
hydrological response can induce concentrated mechanical responses
such as shear strain and shear stress above the interface, which nally
leads to failure. Therefore, when the lower layer is less permeable, any
failure along the interface must be also checked in relation to the
positive pore water pressure (Eq. (2)), which usually leads to the most
critical condition as shown in Fig. 11. As an illustration, the minimum

5.1.2. Analysis for an increasing conductivity prole


Fig. 12 shows the typical results of a one-dimensional nite element analysis for a ne-over-coarse stratication under the condition
of K1 b i. The results show that the sublayer does not reach saturation
because the surface layer is less pervious than the subsoil (Fig. 12(a)
and (b)). The hydraulic gradient behind the wetting front in the lower
layer drops because the hydraulic conductivity of the soil increases to

Fig. 9. Example 1: Minimum requirements for saturation to a depth zp.

Fig. 10. Example 1: Depth of wetting front in relation to ponding time.

40

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

Fig. 11. Example 1: Variance of the factor of safety with depth of wetting front.

a value enough to drain the rainwater inltrated from the upper layer
(Fig. 12(c)). The inltration rate, as well as the cumulative inltration,
is much lower in the ne-over-coarse stratication than in the coarseover-ne stratication. The factor of safety can also be calculated for
the depth of the wetting front. In this type of soil prole, the stability
condition of slope is more favorable than a decreasing conductivity
soil prole since the unsaturated condition (i.e., negative pore
water pressure) is maintained in the lower layer. Therefore, by using
a suitable type of cover system such as compacted clay covers, plastic
membrane and asphalt pavement at the ground surface the stability
can be effectively maintained in the slope.
Fig. 13 shows that after the wetting front passes through the
interface the inltration rate decreases to a constant nal value equal
to the water ux at the interface. This is because the hydraulic conductivity of the sublayer is great enough to drain the inltrated water
from the upper layer. Namely, the entire inltration process is controlled mainly by the less permeable upper layer. Although the
diagram shows an abrupt decrease in the inltration rate, the results
agree reasonably well with the results of the numerical model. The
reason for the sudden reduction in the modied GAML model arises
from the difference between the physics of a true wetting front and
the physics of the piston-type wetting front assumed in the derivation
of the GAML equations. In the modied GAML model the piston-type
wetting front encounters the interface between the two soil layers at
a certain time when the inltration rate drops to an approximately
constant rate. However, the wetting front in the numerical model is
not as sharply dened as that in the modied GAML and so produces a
gradual reduction in inltration rate to a nearly constant value, when
the wetting front completes its passage through the interface (Moore,
1981).

Fig. 12. Example 1: Results of numerical analyses for ne-over-coarse stratications.

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

41

Table 3
Example 2: Parameters for SWCC and hydraulic conductivity function.
Soil type

Weathered soil
Bedrock

Hydraulic
conductivity
function

SWCC

28.01
28.01

1.69
1.69

0.0952
0.0952

0.357
0.357

0.447
0.447

1.005
1.005

0.797
0.797

Table 4
Example 2: Input parameters for the inltration model.
K1 (cm/h)

K2 (cm/h)

1 2 f1 (cm) f2 (cm)

Weathered
18 (5 10 5 m/s) 0.018 (5108 m/s) 0.10 0.10 23.89
soil/bedrock

23.89

Fig. 13. Example 1: Inltration diagram of uniform rainfall conditions for ne-over-coarse
stratications.

5.2. Example 2: Application to a soil-mantled slope with impermeable


bedrock
In Korea where the depth of weathering is very shallow, many
slope failures occur in layer of weathered residual soil overlying the
bedrock. These failures are characterized by shallow failure surfaces

Fig. 14. Example 2: Hydraulic properties for analysis.

(mostly less than 1 m deep) located near the contact between the
weathered soil and the underlying bedrock.
For a two-layered slope in which the hydraulic conductivity of
the upper layer is much greater than that of the lower layer, if the
applied rainfall intensity is greater than the hydraulic conductivity
of the lower layer, the inltrated water reaches the contact between
the soil and the underlying impermeable bedrock, causing a rapid rise
in pore water pressures, and the formation of a perched water table
that destabilizes the upper layer of soil (Biavati et al., 2006).
Consequently the factor of safety starts to rapidly decrease.
In this example numerical and inltration models to simulate
the response to rainfall have been applied to a slope with a 1 m thick
weathered granite soil layer above the bedrock to study rainfallinduced landslides for a landslide-prone hillslope. A typical weathered
granite soil, sampled in Seochang, classied as SM by the United Soil
Classication System (Kim, 2003) was used. The soilwater characteristic curve (Fig. 14(a)) was obtained through a pressure plate test, and
the relative hydraulic conductivity function (Fig. 14(b)) was measured
by the steady state method involves the measurement of hydraulic
conductivity of an unsaturated soil specimen under a constant matric
suction. Table 3 tabulates the parameters for the SWCC and the
relative hydraulic conductivity function. The analysis was conducted
for the initial matric suction of 20 kPa through the depth.
Although soil layers are expected to have less water retention
capacity as they are commonly looser than those from deeper layers,

Fig. 15. Example 2: Inltration diagram of uniform rainfall conditions for a soil-mantled
slope with impermeable bedrock.

42

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

Fig. 18. Example 2: Pressure head response at the contact between the two layers
(results of numerical analyses).

Fig. 16. Example 2: Minimum requirements for saturation to a depth zp.

only soil heterogeneity in terms of the saturated hydraulic conductivity is considered since the two layers share the same parent rock and
the lower bedrock was relatively impermeable. Values for the input
parameters used for the model simulations are presented in Table 4.
Fig. 15 shows the inltration diagram for rainfall intensities of 1 cm/
h and 2 cm/h that are greater than the saturated hydraulic conductivity
of the lower layer but smaller than the saturated hydraulic conductivity
of the surface layer. The diagram shows that the time of surface ponding
(tp) when the soil layer is completely saturated agrees well with the
result of the numerical model.
The time of surface ponding and the corresponding depth of
the wetting front were plotted varying the rainfall intensity (Figs. 16
and 17). Point A in Fig. 16 shows that the time of surface ponding is
11.3 h for the constant rainfall intensity of 1 cm/h.
The depth of wetting corresponding to the rainfall intensity 1 cm/h
and time of ponding 11.3 h is found to be 113 cm at the point C in
Fig. 17, which means that the required minimum time of duration
to completely saturate the soil layer above the bedrock under the
intensity of 1 cm/h is 11.3 h and then the wetting front inltrate to the
depth of 113 cm for the rainfall condition. The at portion of the curve
in Fig. 17 illustrates that the further inltration of rainwater into the

Fig. 17. Example 2: Depth of wetting front in relation to ponding time.

bedrock requires much longer time of duration due to the very small
hydraulic conductivity of the bedrock.
Fig. 18 shows the pressure head response with time at the contact between the two layers obtained from numerical analyses. The
pressure head continues to increase and reaches the steady state
value of 1 m after about 11.7 h for the intensity of 1 cm/h and 5.67 h
for the intensity of 2 cm/h as a consequence of the prolonged
contribution of rainfall water from the slope surface. Such a worst case
scenario (i.e. a water table at the ground surface and slope-parallel
ow above impermeable bedrock) that results its minimum factor of
safety is often assumed for engineering design purposes (Biavati et al.,
2006). Then the factor of safety can be easily calculated from Eq. (1) as
previously explained in Fig. 11.
The results indicate that the proposed inltration model to determine the inltration rate at the surface can provide useful insight
for the stability of a soil-mantled slope with impermeable bedrock to
rainfall inltration.
6. Conclusions
During periods of prolonged inltration, surcial failures occur
because of the positive pore water pressure or the reduced suction
when the pore pressure is still negative. Because inltration is a
complex process that generally involves an unsaturated ow in a
vertical direction, one-dimensional nite element analyses were conducted to gain a better understanding of the mechanism of seepage
ow in a two-layered soil slope.
To assess how the rainfall inltration affects the slope stability in
two-layered soil, Moore's inltration model was reviewed. Moore's
model was then extended to cover more general situations, including
those in which water moves upward from a perched water table
in decreasingly permeable soil. By taking into account the rainfall
intensity and the duration of various return periods in two-layered
soil, the model was used to evaluate the likelihood of a particular
rainfall event inducing a shallow slope failure. The results of the
inltration model were compared with those of the numerical
analyses. With the use of properly estimated input parameters from
the SWCCs and the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity functions, the
proposed model compared reasonably well with the results of the
more rigorous nite element analyses.
Although the proposed model has some limitations with respect
to general applicability, it can provide a perspective on the failure
mechanism of a two-layered slope under the inltration of rainfall.
In addition, when the proposed framework is properly used it offers
a quick and easy way of estimating how inltration affects a slope's

S.E. Cho / Engineering Geology 105 (2009) 3243

stability for the purpose of preliminary analysis and decision-making


in two-layered soil prior to undertaking in-depth analyses.
Appendix A. Computational algorithm for the inltration model
The simple two-step method proposed by Li et al. (1976) was used
to estimate the cumulative inltration because the method is simple
and easy to use.
After the ponding but within the period of interest, according to
Eq. (8) the increment of cumulative inltration is dened as

F = K2 t E H ln 1 +

F
F + H F1


for zw > L1 ;

20

where F refers to the known cumulative inltration at the start of time


step and F is the unknown term.
The rst estimate of F can be obtained by using a truncated series
expansion as
Fo =


q
1
K t 2F + E F1 + f2F + E F1 K2 t g2 + 8K2 t F + H F1 ;
2 2

21
where Fo is an initial estimate of the increment of cumulative inltration.
A second-order Newton method based on a Taylor series expansion
can be used to obtain a more precise solution. F must be found such
that f(F) = 0. This equation is expressed as follows:

f F = F K2 t + E H ln 1 +


F
:
F + H F1

22

The second estimate can then be expressed as


F1 = Fo

f VFo
+
f WFo

where f VFo =

s
2
f VFo
f Fo
f WFo 2
;
f WFo

F + E F1 + Fo
F + H F1 + Fo ,

f WFo =

23

H E
.
F + H F1 + Fo 2

According to Li et al. (1976), the maximum percent error is


approximately 8% for the rst estimate and less than 0.003% for the
second estimate. The procedure is equally applicable when zw L1.
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