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Paper Number : 0634

A DISTRIBUTION MODEL TO ASSIST GROUND CHARACTERISATION OF A PROBLEMATIC SOIL AN EXAMPLE, LOESS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.
Caroline Tye1, Ian F. Jefferson2, Kevin J. Northmore3, and Ian J. Smalley4.

ABSTRACT Predicting the distribution and engineering behaviour of any problematical deposit is a useful tool in ground characterisation. This paper highlights the progress of one example: the production of the conceptual model to help formulate a probabilistic modelling tool; namely, Geographical Information Systems (GIS). The computing power of a GIS may significantly aid hazard prediction. This model will be used in locating the distribution of a potentially problematic soil, loess. Loess, a wind blown Quaternary soil, covers 10% of the worlds landmass and thus the influence on the built environment is pertinent. In the UK, loess is of special interest because these deposits often have metastable (collapsible) fabric. Many buildings have undergone structural failure and subsidence as a result of loess collapse. Therefore, the occurrence of potentially metastable silts has clear implications for engineering construction. The known distribution of loess in the UK cannot be accounted for under simple aeolian transportation and dumping of silt sized material, its distribution is too sporadic. Therefore the distribution is controlled by the geomorphic surroundings, processes and even in some cases several phases of reworking and redistribution. The factors affecting the mode of formation and subsequent geotechnical characteristics are discussed. INTRODUCTION The Quaternary is undoubtedly the most important period in the Earths history for civil engineering (Fookes, 1991). The research at Nottingham Trent Universitys Geohazard Research Group and the British Geological Survey reflects this approach. The British Geological Survey (BGS) has recently reviewed its current status of expertise and resources of Quaternary products. It is seeking to accommodate user requirements in the geoscience community, as well as contributing to national and international Quaternary research objectives, see Foster et al. (1999). At Nottingham Trent University, the research activities range from implications of problematic soils in foundation engineering, through to sedimentological investigations of the formation of these deposits. This particular research project is centred on investigating the distribution and engineering properties of a problematic soil (loessic material). Advances in computer based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have provided a technology that is ideally suited to aid ground characterisation. One of the objectives of this research project is to integrate a variety of analysis procedures for identifying the distribution and subsequent engineering properties of loessic material for hazard prediction through the use of knowledge based routines and GIS. Although this procedure is in the preliminary stages of production, the conceptual model is discussed. This research will complement the efforts of the British Geological Survey and the information will contribute to their Monograph of Engineering Properties of Rocks and Soils in the UK: Loess

Caroline Tye, Dept. Civil & Structural Engineering, Nottingham Trent University, Burton St, Nottingham, NG1 4BU United Kingdom. Email:caroline.tye@ntu.ac.uk 2 Ian Jefferson, Dept. Civil & Structural Engineering, Nottingham Trent University, Burton St, Nottingham, NG1 4BU United Kingdom. Email:ian.jefferson@ntu.ac.uk 3 Kevin Northmore, Coastal and Engineering Group, Kingsley Dunham Centre, British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, NG12 5GG, United Kingdom. Email: kjn@wpo.nerc.ac.uk 4 Ian Smalley, Dept. Civil & Structural Engineering, Nottingham Trent University, Burton St, Nottingham, NG1 4BU United Kingdom. Email: iansmalley@tindrum.globalnet.co.uk

THE PROPERTIES OF LOESS Previous investigations of UK deposits have included examination of composition, geometry, age and correlation, description and interpretation of associated landforms, for example: Fookes & Best, (1969); Perrin et al., (1974); McRae and Burnham, (1975); Derbyshire & Mellors, (1988); Parks & Rendell, (1992); Northmore et al., (1996); Catell, (1997); to name but a few. Therefore, UK loess (frequently synonymous with the term brickearth) is described as a pale yellowish-brown or orange-brown slightly plastic, unbedded (non- or poorly stratified), highly porous, variably clayey SILT, often displaying well developed vertical prismatic jointing. It is generally calcareous, often with a well-defined leached non-calcareous upper zone overlying a lower calcareous layer. Small calcareous tubular concretions, often containing rootlet traces, are common (Northmore and Hobbs, 1999). Using the BGS Quaternary Province Classification System these deposits are found in lowland periglaciated areas (Foster et al., 1999). These deposits consist predominately of quartz particles (0.020 0.060 mm [or 20m 60 m] thus, a medium to coarse silt) with varying minority constituents of fine sand and clay. The quartz is typically angular to subrounded, clay coats the grains forming bonds/ bridges/ buttresses. The occurrence of calcite and clay is periodic throughout a deposit. It is the arrangement of particles (fabric) which impart the characteristic engineering properties, particularly that of metastability to these loessic soils. In the UK, the material is highly porous (typically void ratios of 0.5 0.9) and so the deposits are free-draining and tend to remain partially saturated even through Figure 1 : Proposed type location for UK loess the notoriously wet British winter. If Pegwell Bay, Kent. Cliff exposure, with 3m of loess maintained, these deposits have a relatively overlying chalk. high strength and hence natural stability in vertical sections or excavations, see Figure 1. In the United Kingdom, a nomenclature problem has arisen with the use of the term brickearth. Literally it means the earth used for making bricks, however not all earth used in brick-making is brickearth and not all brickearth is used for making bricks. An example of this is the use of the term to describe river alluvium of Pleistocene age (Gibbons, 1981). Historically, this term has been used to describe a particular type of Quaternary deposit that has distinctive lithological characteristics and engineering properties. Additional confusion has been introduced by the use of geological descriptors on the survey sheets for the brickearthlike deposits. These other deposits have very similar lithological and engineering characteristic but differ in their topographical position. The variation in terminology is intended to reflect the various fluviatile and aeolian (wind-blown) environments in which these deposits were laid down, for example Head Brickearth, River Loam/ River Terrace Loam and River Brickearth. Subsequent remobilization by cryoturbation and solifluction together with sub-aqueous redistribution have led to the evolution of complex modified sequences (Northmore & Hobbs, 1999). The Problem The metastable characteristic of loess has provoked renewed interest in the nature and engineering behaviour of these deposits. These soils are prone to collapse rapidly when they are loaded and wetted beyond their natural insitu condition. This process of hydro-consolidation can result in ground subsidence and distress or destruction of overlying structures. Although it is a less significant problem in the UK, in recent years it has caused damage with financial repercussions (Catell, 1997). Structural loads in excess of 200KPa are likely to result in collapse settlement if constructed on the metastable deposits. However, even with relatively low loads of a domestic dwelling (approximately 100KPa), a metastable brickearth is liable to exhibit collapse if the deposit is rapidly saturated, for example, as a result of impeded drainage or leaking drains, see Figure 2. The numbers of occurrences may even be greater due to the lack of appreciation by many engineers as to the potential problems associated with metastable loess.

Mechanisms of Formation of Loess The origin of loess has been debated for over 150 years, but it is generally accepted that true loess has resulted from aeolian transportation and subsequent deposition of fine material (Derbyshire & Mellor, 1986). However, of importance is the method in which the silt particles are Remedial work has not produced. The principle processes responsible appear to be prevented movement. subglacial grinding of both ice sheets and glaciers, frost Reopened crack >70mm. cracking in periglacial climates, breakage by salt crystal growth and hydration in desert regions, fluvial transport impact and aeolian impact of sand grains (Pye, 1987). Wright et al. (1998) found from laboratory investigations that even though there are spatial and temporal differences in climate, relief, geology and geomorphic history, glacial and cold weathering processes are not solely responsible for fine particle production. Efficient silt production can operate within a variety of environments and the mechanisms include aeolian abrasion, fluvial comminution, glacial grinding, salt and frost weathering. Therefore, under suitable conditions weathering together with episodic contributions from aeolian and fluvial mechanisms, silt is produced; this can have major implications for the source of loessic material in UK deposits. Figure 2 : Subsidence induced cracking Smalley (1966) suggested three basic operations that in a house, the result of loess influence the nature of the deposit. This is Provenance (P), hydroconsolidation, Devon, UK. Transportation (T) and Deposition (D) and the history of the deposit could be defined in terms of these operations. In addition, Smalley proposed loess production as 6 events: Formation of quartz grains by glacial action Crushing of quartz and other rock material by the glacier Transportation of detritus by the glacier Deposition of mixed detritus as glacier melts Transport by wind Deposition This became known as the PTD system, which has been integrated into the conceptual model. The deposits of loess in southern UK are found on landscape beyond the limits of where the glaciers reached in Devensian times (approximately 10 - 15,000 years B.P.). Winds blowing off the continental ice masses during the glaciations of the Pleistocene and over outwash plains, hill deposits and frost shattered surfaces picked up material and carried it in suspension away from the ice. The majority of the deposits in southern UK are generally thought to represent the tail-end of the European loess belt. Lill and Smalley (1978) argued that easterly winds driven by large anticyclones over the Scandinavian ice sheets may have carried silt to England, and may explain the relative abundance in south-eastern England. Eadens (1980) investigations of Norfolk, Essex and Kent loesses suggested a North Sea Basin source with winds moving from the north. The loessic deposits in the south-west of the UK are thought to be derived from glacigenic sediment in the southern Irish Sea Basin and it is the source for deposits found in north/west England (Catt & Staines, 1982). Relief is seen to have an influence on the loessic deposits in Essex, as the deposits mantle gentle slopes with easterly or northerly aspects. Evidence of river brickearth/ loam is observed on the flat top of terraces, but if found above terrace level the material is called brickearth. Therefore, this arbitrary distinction may have led to deposits and their associated stability problems being classed as terrace loams. The deposition of the silt occurs by settling through an air column, trapping by vegetation, rough or wet surface and by rainfall events. These processes are thought to give an open structure, however any fabric is influenced by post-depositional history of the soil. The most important post-depositional influence is that of cyclic wetting and drying produced by seasonal soil moisture fluctuations which leads to densification, secondary (authigenic) clay development and illuviation and cementation. Moisture loss on drying (desiccation) is equivalent to loading processes as it increases the intergranular stresses through suction. This can produce a more densely packed structure (Derbyshire & Mellor, 1986). Therefore in estimating the

mechanisms which have fashioned the distribution, may also explain the subsequent engineering characteristics. Occurrence of Loess in the UK >1m thick In Figure 3, the distribution of loess/brickearth 0.3 1m greater than 0.3m in thickness in the UK is shown. Thicknesses in excess of 1m are restricted 0 100 to north and east Kent, south Essex and the Kilometres Sussex coastal plains. Regional trends in the types of deposits can be determined, since for example textural and mineralogical distinctions are noticeable. A progressive westward increase in the proportion of heavy flaky minerals (chlorite and biotite) is found. A progressive westward decrease in modal size is also found, which may represent aeolian sorting by easterly winds from a source in the North Sea Basin or from the Continent (Catt, 1985). Originally loessic deposits would have been more extensive but have since been removed by post depositional erosion, colluviation, deforestation/ agricultural and resource stripping Figure 3 : Distribution of Loess in England & Wales, activities (Catt, 1977). modified after Catt (1988). Many small pockets of loess are found in horizons up to 1m in thickness. These include loess-derived material on the Carboniferous limestones in Somerset and South Wales; on clay-with flints and related superficial deposits covering the Chalk Plateau in southern England and Tertiary deposits in Hampshire. In Dorset, moving east to the Devon Plateau the ground is mantled with a thin loess band. Loess is also found on Devonian Limestone and Permian Breccias in Torbay and in solifluction deposits on the Granite in Dartmoor. Coastal deposits are found on the Isle of Wight, Sussex, Essex, Kent, Cornwall and West Wales. CONCEPTUAL MODEL To evaluate the known loessic sediments in southern UK, with specific reference to geographical distribution and subsequent mineralogical and geotechnical characteristics, a sedimentary system of loess deposition is being formulated. This may result in determining the geological/ geomorphological controls for loess production, which ultimately influence the distribution and the overall geotechnical behaviour. The Tye Tree represents the conceptual model, and denotes the preliminary stage in the production a Geographic Information System (GIS) model of loess distribution. The GIS is still under development and consequently not described in detail. However, the reasoning behind choosing GIS as a modelling tool is described. Basic Principles of GIS There are many definitions for Geographical Information Systems, however the tool-based approach is most relevant to this investigation. Thus, GIS is a powerful tool for collecting, storing, retrieving at will, transforming and displaying spatial data (Burrough and McDonnell, 1998). The spatial data can be in terms of a position with respect to known co-ordinates, or attributes that are unrelated to position, or spatial interrelations which describes how they are linked (topology) as space and spatial properties. GIS for problematic soils offers a powerful way of carrying out the complex tasks common to risk analysis. Expert systems (Knowledge Based Systems - KBS) can be used to capture this knowledge and, when combined with GIS, can use it to make decisions on optimal analysis paths. These decisions can then be used to derive spatial analysis routines and interpret the results. There are 3 main advantages to be derived from the application of a GIS/KBS to a problematic soil distribution. Firstly, the knowledge of a wide diversity of experts can be encapsulated. Secondly, the processing procedure of an experience ground investigator can be initiated to help the relative novice understand the problem faced. Lastly, the analysing

procedure of the expert can be copied so that the expert himself uses the system to give added speed and flexibility in the analysis of the distribution and associated problems with an unstable soil. In the GIS programme, IDRISI, the module, Belief, constructs and stores the current state of knowledge for the full set of hierarchical hypotheses. It can also aggregate new evidence with the knowledge to create a new state of knowledge. Tye Tree Interestingly, in this country, the most significant loess deposits occur on the coast. However a wind fall event cannot be so specifically geographically placed to fringe 200 miles of coastline. It is assumed that a loess-fall event, for example, a dust storm, produces blanket coverage over a wide area. Thus, it is unlikely that primary loess exists because large swathes of southern England are not uniformly covered by loessic material. Therefore, if loess-fall events did occur during the Devensian, most silt will have been reworked and moved into other resting-places. Moreover, the latter stages of particle movements must be a wind stage, ensuring the production of the open porous structure and subsequent geotechnical characteristics. The Tye Tree represents the movement of silt particles controlled by variations in depositional environments, which encompass provenance and mineralogy, geomorphological controls and meteorological processes. There may be several cycles of movement before the silt particles find a stable resting-place. However, one fundamental process, which is purposefully ignored in this model, is time. The authors are assuming from modern soil erosion problems that there is sufficient time for a number of cycles to function. In a given situation, a loess air fall may occur in which the particle size of material is 0.02 0.06 mm (2060m) and composed of mainly quartz. The material discarded by the wind can either move (T x - for transportation under the PTD system) or stay (Dx). There could be a number of factors influencing either parameter, these factors may solely control the outcome of movement, or in addition to a number of factors, the combined influence will be sufficient to provoke or resist movement. This is represented in the weights of evidence approach in the GIS. Therefore, if Dx occurs particles may remain because they have been trapped by vegetation, and/or in a suitable topographic situation, for example a hollow or resting on a matrix which is aiding resistance to erosion. The particles may linger in an open, highly porous, packing system and hence be distinguished as loess. Or the particles can be quickly covered by foreign matter and incorporated into a soil. Alternatively, if Tx occurs the particles may move because of a lack of the previous factors and/or because of a number of others. This may include gravity affects (related to a number of other factors), the particles have fallen into water, or occurrence of effective wind speed to lift particles again. Three major movement mechanisms have been specified: wind, water, and soil creep. During any of these movement phases changes to the particle (i.e. mechanical breakdown) may occur. For example, fluid movement is likely to round off the edges of a quartz pebble, and saltation (wind movement) of a particle typically erodes one axis. After a transportation phase deposition must take place, and the full suite of hypotheses are applied. If movement occurs, the cycle starts again. Within a predetermined geographic boundary, the cycle of Tx and Dx may repeat until certain factors prevent further manipulation: this includes, incorporation into another deposit, for example river alluvium after fluvial movement; suspension in wind which takes it out of the region; or ultimately lost out to sea. It is this latter scenario which is expected to have produced the majority of deposits in southern UK and be indicative of the natural concentrations of these deposits on the coast. If the repetitive cycle of movement is localised, the deposit produced is not prone to metastability. This is because the rounded quartz grains form a packing order which is denser. Considerations of the post-depositional affects on a deposit must also be taken into account - for example cementation, and authigenic clay growth. These are important factors in determining the characteristics of the deposits. Furthermore, these factors may prevent time-lagged redistribution of the particles back into the PTD system. CONCLUSIONS Loess soils, of which some are potentially unstable and must be engineered to overcome metastability, are found in the UK. The distribution is not systematic and the deposits are found overlying different bedrock, on slopes, in valleys and at the coast. These deposits have been produced by a wind fall event which has produced the open porous structure of the soil. However, the aeolian processes may have behaved

differently due to temporal and spatial differences in geomorphic parameters. In addition, the deposits may have been reworked and redeposited several times. The model highlights the complexity of factors affecting the formation of loess. The model has been simplified but still requires the computing power of a GIS to process the steps. The GIS model is in the development stage. It will be tested against the distribution of natural loess deposits found in southern Britain. Interpretation of the sedimentological processes of the formation of loess deposits will predict geotechnical variability and the potential susceptibility to the built environment. REFERENCES Burrough, P.A. & McDonnell, R.A. (1998). Principles of Geographical Information Systems. Oxford University Press. Catt, J.A. (1977). Loess and Coversands in British Quaternary Studies Recent Advances. F.W. Shotton Eds., Ch. 16, pp. 221- 229. Catt, J.A. (1985). Soils and Quaternary Stratigraphy in the United Kingdom in Soils and Quaternary Landscape Evolution. J. Boardman Eds., Chichester, John Wiley & Sons, pp. 161-178. Catt, J.A. (1988). Quaternary Geology for Scientist and Engineers. Ellis Horwood Limited, Chichester, pp. 340. Catt, J.A. & Staines S.J. (1982). Loess in Cornwall. Proc. Usshers Society, Vol. 5, pp. 368 375. Cattell, A.C. (1997). The Development of loess-bearing soil profiles on Permian Breccias in Torbay. Proc. Usshers Society, Vol. 9, pp. 168 172. Derbyshire, E. & Mellors, T.W. (1986). Loess in A handbook of Engineering Geomorphology. P.G. Fookes & P. Vaughan Eds., Surrey University Press and Blackie, Edinburgh, Ch. 20. pp. 237 246. Derbyshire, E. & Mellors, T.W. (1988). Geological and Geotechnical Characteristics of some Loess and Loessic Soils from China and Britain: a comparison. Eng. Geol., Vol. 25, pp. 135- 175. Eaden, D.N. (1980). The loess of north-east Essex, England. Boreas, Vol. 9, pp. 165 177. Fookes, P.G. & Best, R. (1969). Consolidation characteristics of some late Pleistocene periglacial metastable soils of east Kent. Q. Jl Engng. Geol., Vol. 2, pp. 103 - 128. Fookes, P.G. (1991). Quaternary Engineering Geology in Quaternary Engineering Geology. Geological Society Engineering Geology Special Publication, A. Foster, M.G. Culshaw, J.C. Cripps, J.A. Little and C.F. Moon Eds., No. 7, pp. 73-98. Foster, S.S.D., Morigi, A.N. & Browne, M.A.E. (1999). Quaternary geology towards meeting user requirements. British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham. Gibbons, W. (1981). The Weald. Unwin Paperbacks, London. pp. 47. Lill, G. O. & Smalley, I.J. (1978). Distribution of Loess in Britain. Proc. Geol. Ass., Vol. 89, (1), pp. 57 65. McRae, S.G. & Burnham, C.P. (1975). The Soils of the Weald. Proc. Geol. Ass., Vol. 86, (4), pp. 593 610. Northmore, K.J., Bell, F.G. & Culshaw, M.G. (1996). The Engineering Properties and Behaviour of the Brickearths of South Essex. Q. Jl. Engng. Geol. Vol. 28, pp. 147 161. Northmore, K.J. and Hobbs, P. (1999) Engineering properties of Quaternary deposits. Introductory course on Quaternary Processes, In-house course at the British Geological Survey, Nottingham. Parks, D.A. & Rendell, H.M. (1992). Thermoluminescence dating and geochemistry of loessic deposits in southeast England. Journal of Quaternary Science, Vol. 7, (2), pp. 99-107. Perrin, R.M.S., Davies, H. & Fysh, M.D. (1974). Distribution of late Pleistocene aeolian deposits in eastern and southern England. Nature, Vol. 248, March 22, pp. 320 - 324. Pye, K. (1987). The Nature, Origin and Accumulation of Loess. Quat. Sci. Rev., Vol. 24, pp. 653 667. Smalley, I.J. (1966). The Properties of Glacial Loess & the Formation of Loess Deposits. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 669 676. Wright, J., Smith, B. & Whalley, B. (1998). Mechanisms of loess-sized silt production and their relative effectiveness: laboratory simulations. Geomorphology, Vol. 23, (1), pp. 15 - 34.