Evolution of Submarine Landslides

Professor Alexander M. Puzrin


Large underwater landslides represent a major geohazard, due to their devastating consequences and tsunami generation potential. Evidence from historic events shows that these submarine landslides can be tens of kilometres in length at very low slope inclinations. It is highly unlikely that slip surfaces of such great dimension could appear simultaneously along a slope’s entire length. Therefore it is not surprising that conventional slope stability analysis methods fail to explain the large dimensions of these landslides and broad variety of resulting geomorphological features.

In contrast, the proposed shear band propagation (SBP) approach treats slope failure as an evolutionary process and provides a rational quantitative explanation of the mechanisms associated with these enormous landslides. Recent developments in the SBP approach within the BP Caspian Sea project provide simple mechanical criteria for different landslide stages. They have been validated numerically and experimentally and calibrated with the extensive geophysical and geotechnical data from the Caspian paleo-landslides. This novel SBP approach has been implemented in collaboration with Fugro GeoConsulting into a GIS based probabilistic slope stability analysis framework, allowing for the risk assessment of the landslide impact on off-shore infrastructure.

About Professor Alexander M. PuzrinAlexander Puzrin

Alexander M. Puzrin has been a Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at the ETH Zurich since 2004. He is engaged in the constitutive modelling of geomaterials and the analysis of progressive and catastrophic failure in soils, with applications to creeping terrestrial and tsunamigenic submarine landslides. His interests include applications of novel sensor technologies to geotechnical monitoring and development of innovative chemical and biological soil improvement techniques. He has been involved as an expert and consultant in large-scale geotechnical projects in the UK, the US, Russia, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Israel and Switzerland. He is a co-founder of the ETH Zurich spin-off company: Marmota Engineering AG — a winner of the Venture 2010 competition — providing high-tech fiber-optic geotechnical monitoring services to the industry. Professor Puzrin was a recipient of the ETH Excellence in Teaching Award (Goldene Eule) in 2009 and 2013. His papers were awarded with Geotechnical Research Medals in 2004 and 2013, and the George Stephenson Medal in 2013 by the UK Institution of Civil Engineers. He served as the Editor for the international journal Géotechnique and the Chairman of the Géotechnique Advisory Panel from 2012–2015.

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