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Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

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Engineering Geology
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/enggeo

Three-dimensional stability analysis of slope in unsaturated soils considering T


strength nonlinearity under water drawdown

Jing-Shu Xu , Xiao-Li Yang
School of Civil Engineering, Central South University, No. 68, South Shao-shan Street, Tian-xin District, Changsha City, Hu'nan Province 410075, People's Republic of
China

A R T I C L E I N F O A B S T R A C T

Keywords: In slope stability analyses, the soil has been frequently considered dry or saturated, whereas the soil is in fact
Slope stability unsaturated in many cases. Owing to the existence of matric suction, the strength properties of unsaturated soils
Unsaturated soils are greatly different from dry or saturated soil, and thereby leading to diverse stability conditions of the slope.
Matric suction Based on the kinematical approach of limit analysis, in this study, a three-dimensional (3D) stability analysis was
Strength nonlinearity
conducted for slopes in unsaturated soils. The effects of matric suction distribution patterns, the nonlinearity of
Water level drawdown
the strength under soil-water characteristic curves and the water drawdown were investigated to explore the
shear strength and stability of a slope in unsaturated soil. It was found that, when the matric suction is uniformly
distributed, the stability factors of the slope increase linearly along with the matric suction. In addition, when
the matric suction increases linearly with the depth, the enhancing effect of the matric suction on the slope
stability intensifies as the variation magnitude of the matric suction increases, especially for a gentle slope with a
narrower width. For nonlinear patterns, different soil-water characteristic curve (SWCC) models will lead to
diverse shear strengths and stability conditions of the slope. The water drawdown has significant effects on the
functions of the matric suction as well as slope stability.

1. Introduction soils.
Many methods can be used to investigate the 3D stability of a slope,
A slope stability analysis, which is an important and classical issue introducing the rigorous limit equilibrium method (RLE), the discrete
in geotechnical engineering, has been mostly performed under two- element method (DEM), the general particle dynamics numerical
dimensional (2D) plane strain conditions under the assumption that the method, the discontinuous deformation analysis (DDA) method and the
soils is dry or saturated. However, soil is in fact generally unsaturated in limit analysis method.
nature (Hoyos et al., 2015; Oh and Lu, 2015). In addition, a slope With regard to the rigorous limit equilibrium method for a 3D slope
stability assessment is typically a three-dimensional (3D) problem, and stability analysis, which takes the inter-column forces into account, the
a number of studies have shown that 2D failure modes will lead to RLE method was established by Zhou and Cheng (2013) based on the
conservative estimations of the slope stability (Michalowski and three-axial-direction force equilibrium conditions and three direction
Drescher, 2009). Owing to the existence of matric suction, the strength moment equilibrium conditions around the three coordinate axes. The
behavior and properties of unsaturated soils differ greatly from dry or relationship between the width of a sliding body and the safety factor as
saturated soil, leading to diverse slope stability conditions. Thus, in well as the value of the safety factor itself, were determined. The pre-
many cases, it is inappropriate to ignore the unsaturation of soils and sented method was proved to be valid through a practical application.
simply treat it as dry or saturated. The pore water pressures and water Zhou and Cheng (2014) investigated the stability of a 3D slope sub-
drawdown are decisive factors on the slope stability, and when the jected to seismic forces when applying a combination of the RLE and
matric suction, in particular is taken into account, the water level the pseudo-dynamic method. A new limit equilibrium method to ana-
drawdown directly influences the slope stability, and more importantly, lyze the stability and displacement of three-dimensional creeping slopes
changes the acting zone and magnitude of the matric suction inside the was proposed by Zhou and Cheng (2015).
slope. It is of both theoretical and practical significance to investigate For the discrete element method, Assefa et al. (2017) analyzed a
the stability of 3D slopes subjected to a water drawdown in unsaturated deep-seated slope movement in a complex rock formation. The DEM


Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: csushdxjs@csu.edu.cn (J.-S. Xu), yangxl@csu.edu.cn (X.-L. Yang).

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enggeo.2018.02.010
Received 8 August 2017; Received in revised form 5 January 2018; Accepted 10 February 2018
0013-7952/ © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

approach was adopted to simulate the slope as a complex blocky et al. (2016a,b), and the effects of the matric suction distribution pat-
structure defined by bedding planes, inclined and sub-vertical joints. terns on the objectives were illustrated. Tarantino and Mountassir
Different hypotheses regarding the geometry of the slip surface, com- (2013) investigated the stability of geotechnical structures in un-
patible with field evidences, are discussed. Camones et al. (2013) in- saturated soils, adopting an accessible approach for a hydraulic and
vestigated the step-path failure mechanism in fractured rock masses strength behavior estimation of unsaturated soils.
using the discrete element method (DEM). Crack propagation and It should be noted that investigations into the slope stability of a
coalescence were simulated in biaxial and triaxial laboratory tests, and slope, regardless of under 2D or 3D conditions, have been mainly
simple examples of this mechanism were modeled for a better under- conducted in dry or saturated soil, even though soil is commonly un-
standing of the failure mechanism. Salmi et al. (2016) analyzed the saturated in nature (Fredlund et al., 1978; Lu and Likos, 2004), and
impacts of underground mining on the stability of a slope using nu- only a few investigation into the stability of 3D unsaturated slopes have
merical modeling based on a coalmining induced landslide at Nattai been applied. Matric suction, which exists in unsaturated soils, makes
North, Australia, as a typical case study. Discontinuous numerical the physical properties and behavior of unsaturated soils greatly dif-
modeling was employed to analyze the mechanisms of the ground ferent from those of dry or saturated soils, resulting in different stability
movements leading to landslide. The role of geological and geo- conditions of various slopes. As a consequence, the question, which has
technical factors on the slope stability were discussed. both theoretical and practical importance, is how to estimate the 3D
Regarding the general particle dynamics numerical method, Zhou stability of a slope in various unsaturated soil under different matric
et al. (2015) proposed the general particle dynamics approach (GPD3D) suction distributions and pore water levels. In this regard, based on the
to simulate the failure process (initiation, growth, and coalescence of kinematical approach of limit analysis theorem, a 3D stability analysis
cracks macro-failures) of a slope. of a slope subjected to water level drawdown in unsaturated soils was
The discontinuous deformation analysis method (DDA) was pre- conducted in this study. External work rates by soil weight, pore water
sented by Jing (1998) to investigate the deformations of geometrically pressure and matric suction as well as the internal energy dissipation
complex blocks in rock mechanics and engineering geology. The ad- were calculated, and expressions of the critical heights of a slope were
vantages and shortcomings of DDA were illuminated, and the solutions then derived using an energy equilibrium equation. The effects of ma-
by DDA were compared with the explicit distinct element method and tric suction distributions, soil shear strength nonlinearity under diverse
the finite element method. SWCC models and water level drawdown on the slope stability were
The limit analysis method, the approach adopted in this study is investigated after optimization, and some numerical solutions were
effective and has been widely used to investigate the stability problems presented.
of foundations, tunnels (Li and Yang, 2018; Yang and Zhang, 2018),
slopes (Yang and Li, 2018) and other geotechnical structures. Slope 2. Upper bound theorem
analyzed using the limit analysis method can be divided into two parts
based on the standard of dimensionality, i.e., (1) a 2D stability analysis The limit analysis method assumes that the soil deforms plastically
and (2) a stability analysis under 3D conditions. In terms of a 2D sta- according to the normality rule. The present method also states that the
bility analysis, considering the seismic forces, Qin and Chian (2017) internal energy dissipations are no less than the work rates by external
analyzed the stability of a two-stage slope in layered soil, proposed a forces (Pan and Dias, 2017; Yang and Yao, 2018), namely
closed-form solution to the kinematic stability of a slope, and in-
vestigated the influences of the soil weight and cohesion, soil non- ∫V σ ∗ij ε ∗̇ ij dV ≥ ∫S Ti vi dS + ∫V Xi vi∗dV (1)
homogeneity, and external factors such as seismic forces on the slope
stability. Through a numerical analysis approach, Gischig et al. (2015) where εij̇∗ is the strain rate; σij∗ is the stress rate tensor, S and V are the
conducted a rock slope stability analysis to demonstrate the roles of boundary and volume of a failure block, respectively; Ti is the surcharge
amplification in enhancing the co-seismic slope deformation. load on boundary; Xi is the body force in volume V; and vi is the velocity
For a slope stability analysis under 3D conditions, Michalowski and along the potential sliding surface.
Drescher (2009) proposed a 3D rotational failure mechanism of a slope
with a spiral conic shape in accordance with the normality rule, and 3. Shear strength of unsaturated soils
derived the expression of critical height of a 3D slope based on the limit
analysis method, and investigated the influences of the 3D geometry Equations for the estimation of unsaturated soils shear strength can
characteristics and soil strength on the slope stability. Lim et al. (2016) be classified into two categories, i.e., linear equations (Fredlund et al.,
presented sets of stability charts of a slope in purely cohesive clay using 1978; Zhang et al., 2016a,b) and nonlinear equations (Bao et al., 1998;
the finite element limit analysis method. Fredlund et al., 1996; Vanapalli et al., 1996; Khalili and Khabbaz, 1998;
With regard to investigations on unsaturated soil, Fredlund et al. Vilar, 2006). In this study, both linear and nonlinear equations were
(1978) proposed an extended expression of the Mohr-Coulomb failure adopted to demonstrate the effects of matric suction on the stability of a
criterion to take into account the effects of matric suction on the shear 3D unsaturated slope.
strength of various types of soil. Thereafter, Bao et al. (1998), Fredlund
et al. (1996), Khalili and Khabbaz (1998), Vanapalli et al. (1996), and
Vilar (2006) also proposed expressions to estimate functions of the 3.1. Linear conditions
matric suction on the shear strength of unsaturated soils. Zhang et al.
(2014) performed a stability analysis of 2D slopes in unsaturated soil For the linear conditions, the uniformly distributed condition of the
considering the strength of the nonlinearity aiming at diverse soil types matric suction and its linearly increased conditions, along with depth,
based on the soil-water characteristic curve (SWCC, i.e., permeability were adopted in this study, as shown in Fig. 1.
function), investigated the effects of soils strength nonlinearity on the
slope stability, and proposed relevant recommendations for practical 3.1.1. Unified shear strength
use. Houston et al. (2008) performed a series of unsaturated soil triaxial The equation for the shear strength estimation of unsaturated soils
tests to investigate the strength properties and shear-induced volume proposed by Fredlund et al. (1978) in the form of the Mohr-Coulomb
change behavior of unsaturated soil, as well as the feasibility of un- failure criterion is the most representative function and was adopted in
saturated soil property estimation functions. Based on the moment this study to describe the shear strength of unsaturated soils under a
equilibrium method, an investigation into the critical embedment depth linear condition in which the matric suction is uniformly distributed, as
for a rigid retaining wall in unsaturated soils was conducted by Zhang shown in Fig. 1(a)

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J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

O O Table 1
ua-uw ua-uw Soil cohesion c(ua−uw) due to matric suction summarized by Zhang et al. (2014).

Unsaturated shear strength Cohesion due to matric suction


equation

ρ Fredlund et al. (1978) c(ua−uw) = (ua − uw) tan φb


Fredlund et al. (1996) c(ua−uw) = (ua − uw)Θdκ tan φ′
1 where Θd = θw/θs, κ is a fitting parameter.
Vanapalli et al. (1996)
c(ua − uw ) = (ua − uw ) ⎡tan φ′

( θ w − θr
θs − θr ) ⎤⎦
or

Depth, z Depth, z
c(ua − uw ) = (ua − uw ) ⎡tan φ′

( S − Sr
100 − Sr ) ⎤⎦
Vilar (2006) c(ua − uw ) =
(ua − uw )
(a) (b) a + b (ua − uw )
1 1
where a = ,b=
Fig. 1. Distributions of matric suction in unsaturated soils: (a) uniform distribution of tan φ′ (cult − c′)
matric suction with depth; and (b) linearly increased distribution of matric suction with 1 a
or b = −
(cm − c′) ψm
depth.
Khalili and Khabbaz (1998) c(ua−uw) = (ua − uw)[λ′] tan φ′
where [λ′]=1.0 when (ua − uw) ≤ AEV
τ = c′ + (σ − ua) tan φ′ + (ua − u w ) tan φb (2) [λ′] = ( ua − uw −0.55
) when (ua − uw) > AEV
AEV

where c is the effective cohesion intercept, φ is the effective internal ′ Bao et al. (1998) c(ua−uw) = (ua − uw)[ζ] tan φ′
where [ζ] = 1.0 when (ua − uw) ≤ AEV
friction angle, ua − uw is the matric suction among which ua and uw are log (ua − uw )r − log (ua − uw )
[ζ ] =
the pore-air pressure and pore-water pressure, respectively; σ − ua is log (ua − uw )r − log (AEV )

the net normal stress on the failure plane, and φb is the suction angle, when AEV < (ua − uw) < ψr
[ζ] = 0, when (ua − uw) ≥ ψr
which is commonly 15° based on a number of datasets available from
the 1970s.
The shear strength of unsaturated soils shown in Eq. (2) can be between shear strengths and matric suctions are nonlinear, as de-
transformed into the Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion formation as termined through by subsequent tests on unsaturated soils. Fig. 2 shows
τ = c + (σ − ua) tan φ′ (3) the relationships between the shear strength and matric suction for a

typical unsaturated soil and the SWCC, which was drawn based on a
where c = c + (ua − uw) tan φ . b
significant amount of experiment data. As shown in Fig. 2(a) and from
Zhang et al. (2014), soil shows saturated behaviors when the matric
3.1.2. Linearly increased matric suction with depth suction is less than the air-entry value (AEV). Afterward, the shear
According to Zhang et al. (2016a,b), another linear estimation used strengths begins to increase once the matric suction exceeds the AEV
to describe the values of the matric suction was developed from within the nonlinear zone, and in the residual zone, the envelopes of
Fredlund et al. (1978), as shown in Fig. 3(b), which states that the plastic clay and soil then become generally horizontal, whereas the
matric suction is linear increased with depth from the water table. This envelope of a cohesion-less material (sands) shows a leveling off along
expression was also adopted in the present study to demonstrate the with the matric suction, indicating that the shear strength of the sand
effects of the matric suction on the slope stability in a more compre- tends to decrease along with the matric suction.
hensive manner. The matric suction (ua − uw)z at depth z with regard to With regard to the nonlinearity of the shear strength of unsaturated
the linearly increased distribution is soil, a number of equations have been proposed to demonstrate the
(ua − u w )z = ρz (4) nonlinear relationships between shear strength and the matric suction
(Bao et al., 1998; Khalili and Khabbaz, 1998; Fredlund et al., 1978,
where ρ is the magnitude of linearly distributed matric suction and z is 1996; Vanapalli et al., 1996 and Vilar, 2006), as shown in Table 1.
the vertical distance between the water table level and the calculation Detailed explanations on these equations can also be found in Zhang
point. et al. (2014).
Where θw and θs in Table 1 are the volumetric water content and
3.2. Shear strength nonlinearity of unsaturated soils saturated volumetric water content, respectively; θr is the residual vo-
lumetric water content; S is the degree of saturation; Sr is the residual
The shear strength of unsaturated soils was initially considered to degree of saturation; cult is the ultimate un-drained shear strength of an
have a linear function with the matric suction, as presented by Fredlund air-dried soil sample; AEV is the air-entry value of the soil and ψr is the
et al. (1978). However, it was later found that the relationships residual suction.

Linear zone Nonlinear zone Residual zone AEV ψr Residual suction


100
Degree of saturation/%
Shear strength

Boundary
φb=φ' 80 effect zone
Plastic clays

Soils 60 a f (Inflection point)

Cohesionless 40 Transition
soils (Sands) effect zone
φb=φ'
20 Residual zone

AEV Residual suction 01 10 100 1000 10000 100000 1000000


Matric suction (ua-uw)/kPa Matric suction/kPa (Logarithm scale)

Fig. 2. Redrawing of the relationship between unsaturated soils and SWCC: (a) strength envelope of typical unsaturated soil and (b) SWCC for typical soil.

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J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

Table 2 r = r0 e (θ − θ0) tan φ ′ (5)


SWCC parameters by Fredlund and Xing (1994).
r ′ = r0′ e−(θ − θ0) tan φ ′ (6)
SWCC θs af(kPa) nf mr ψr AEV θr κ cult(kPa)
The distance from point O to cone axis rm and the radius of the circle
1 0.4 1 2 1 10 0.5 0.081 1.0 11.4
of a cone cross-section R, are
2 0.4 10 2 1 100 5 0.080 1.8 13.7
3 0.4 100 2 1 1000 50 0.078 2.2 28.4 r + r′
4 0.4 1000 2 1 10,000 500 0.073 2.5 107.3 rm = = r0 f1
2 (7)

r − r′
An investigation by Zhang et al. (2014) found that different soil R= = r0 f2
2 (8)
types show various strength envelopes under nonlinear estimations
equations. In this regard, in accordance with Zhang et al. (2014), four where f1 and f2 are as given in the Appendix A.
types of soil were selected for this study to investigate the nonlinear
functions of the matric suction on the stability of the slopes in un- 5. Calculations and optimization
saturated soil, as listed in Table 2, where No. 1 indicates sandy soil, No.
2 denotes fine-grained soil (silt), No. 3 is clay and No. 4 is extremely 5.1. Internal energy dissipation
fine-grained soil.
In Table 2, af is the inflection point of the shear strength envelope, The internal energy dissipations D0−B−3D of sections θ0 − θB and
as shown in Fig. 2(b), which equals 1, 10, 100, and 1000 for SWCC Nos. DB−h−3D of section θB − θh of the rotational body can be written as
1 through 4; nf is the slope of the SWCC at the inflection point; mf is a follows according to the limit analysis method:
fitting parameter related to residual water content, and κ is a fitting θB α1∗
parameter equals to 1.0, 1.8, 2.2, and 2.5, respectively.
D0 − B − 3D = 2ω ∫θ ∫0
0
cR (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ

= ωc′r03 g1 + ωρ tan φbr04 (g2 − g3) (9)

4. 3D failure mechanism of slope in unsaturated soils θh α2∗


DB − h − 3D = 2ω ∫θ ∫0
B
cR (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ

The 3D rotational failure mechanism of a slope in unsaturated soils = ωc′r03 g4 + ωρ tan φbr04 (g5 − g6) (10)
is illustrated in Fig. 3. The present failure mechanism of the slope has
an angle of β with a slope height of H. Log-spiral curves AC and A'C', are where ω is the angular velocity, α1∗ = arccos
(d1/R), arccos (d2/α2∗ =
the boundaries of the conic rotating around center O, among which AC R), d1 = r0f3, and d2 = r0f4. In addition, g1 through g6 are given in the
is the failure surface of the slope. The toe point C of the slope is as- Appendix A.
sumed to be located at the water level. The shape of the failure me- The sum of the internal energy dissipation of rotational body is
chanism is only related to three independent variables, i.e., θ0 and θh, D3D = D0 − B − 3D + DB − h − 3D (11)
which are the origination and termination rotating angles, respectively,
and the independent ratio, r'0/r0. Investigations show that the stability The internal energy dissipation of the insertion block is
factors are also related to the slope width, and as a result, an insertion θh r
block of width b is inserted into the conic, as shown in Fig. 3(b). When
Dinsert = b ∫θ 0
cv cos φ
cosφ
dθ = ωc′r03 g7 + ωρ tan φbr04 g8
(12)
b → ∞, the 3D failure mechanism degenerates to a 2D plane strain one
The total internal energy dissipation rate Dint can be expressed as
and consequently, the 3D solutions become very close to the 2D results.
It should be noted that in the failure mechanism shown in Fig. 3, the Dint = D3D + Dinsert = ωc′r03 (g1 + g4 + g7)
water table is assumed to locate at the slope toe. The assumption is
+ ωρ tan φbr04 (g2 + g3 + g5 + g6 + g8) (13)
adopted in this section for that the pore water level presented in
Fig. 3(a) is classical and representative and had also been adopted by where g1 to g8 are given in the Appendix A.
many other investigators (Eid 2014; Gao et al., 2014; Michalowski and
Nadukuru, 2013; Viratjandr and Michalowski, 2006). With regard to 5.2. Work rate by soil weight
these reasons, it is assumed in this section that the water table is located
at the slope toe. Besides, a stability analysis of a 3D slope with different Velocity v of a point in the rotational failure block shown in Fig. 2(a)
pore-water tables is also conducted in this study. is
As shown in Fig. 2(a), OA = r0 and O'A' = r'0. The expressions of the
discontinuity curves AC and A'C', are v = ω (rm + y ) (14)

O
(a) (b)
θ0
θB


θ

A'
θh
C' b B
A
x

B
ρ
R
α1 *

rh
v H
y
d1

x
R

Insertion
*
β

α2

C d2
block
y

Fig. 3. 3D failure mechanism of slope in unsaturated soils: (a) rotational failure mechanism, and (b) failure mechanism with plant insert.

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J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

Table 3 c′ (g1 + g4 + g7 )
Slope stability factors of a 3D unsaturated slope (γ = 20 kN/m3, β = 60°, B/H = 5.0,
H= [e (θh − θ0) tan φ ′ sin θh
γ (g9 + g10) − ρ tan φb (g2 + g5 + g8 − g3 − g6 )
c' = 10 kPa and φ′ = 34°).
− sin θ0] (22)
Soil types SWCC models Matric suction/kPa
For the conditions that the matric suction is nonlinear distributed
0 20 40 80 100 120 following the equations in Table 1,
No. 1 1 21.08 25.37 27.71 31.59 33.31 34.93 c (g1 + g4 + g7 )
2 21.08 21.08 21.08 21.08 21.08 21.08
H= [e (θh − θ0) tan φ ′ sin θh − sin θ0]
γ (g9 + g10 ) (23)
3 21.08 23.76 23.89 23.96 23.97 23.98

4 21.08 24.82 26.19 28.06 28.80 29.46 where c = c + c(ua−uw).
5 21.08 21.08 21.08 21.08 21.08 21.08
To make the failure mechanism geometrically meaningful, neces-
No. 2 1 21.08 29.68 28.77 28.71 28.91 29.13
2 21.08 32.27 30.25 24.36 21.08 21.08 sary constraints are derived from the geometry relationships in Fig. 3,
3 21.08 27.20 27.94 28.38 28.48 28.54 as listed in Eq. (24). Based on this, the minimum upper bound solutions
4 21.08 34.35 39.21 45.84 48.46 50.80 of the stability factor Ns = γHc/c′ can be obtained through optimization.
5 21.08 36.36 38.48 29.56 21.08 21.08
No. 3 1 21.08 48.46 70.79 93.87 96.81 96.56
⎧ 0 < θ0 < θB < θh < π
2 21.08 48.92 73.76 108.88 119.29 126.05 0 < r0′/ r0 < 1
3 21.08 37.49 44.15 50.01 51.56 52.69 ⎨
4 21.08 49.52 77.96 108.93 118.21 126.50 ⎩ 0 < (b + Bmax′ )/ H < B / H (24)
5 21.08 49.52 77.96 117.0 130.38 141.86
No. 4 1 21.08 49.48 77.76 133.69 161.23 188.41
2 21.08 49.50 77.86 134.28 162.28 190.09 6. Numerical solutions and parameter analysis
3 21.08 46.06 65.62 94.26 105.07 114.24
4 21.08 49.52 77.96 134.85 163.29 191.73
In this section, some numerical solutions of safety factors corre-
5 21.08 49.52 77.96 134.85 163.29 191.73
sponding to different soil types and SWCC models were presented.
Thereafter, a parameter analysis carried out to investigate the effects of
The infinitesimal work rate element is the 3D slope geometry characteristics, the matric suction distributions
and the shear strength nonlinearity on the 3D slope stability in un-
dw = γv cos θdV = γv cos θdxdy (rm + y ) dθ (15) saturated soil is described.
The work rate by the soil weight of the rotational body shown in
6.1. Numerical solutions
Fig. 3(a) is then obtained as follows:

θB x1∗ y∗ Table 3 shows the stability factors Ns of a 3D slope with respect to


Wγ − 3D = 2ωγ ⎡ ∫θ ∫0 ∫d (rm + y )2 cos θdxdydθ γ = 20 kN/m3, B/H = 5.0, c′ = 10kPa, and φ′ = 34° for different SWCC
⎣ 0 1

θh x2∗ y∗
models. In the row listing SWCC models, 1 indicates the Fredlund et al.'s
+ ∫θ ∫0 ∫d (rm + y )2 cos θdxdydθ⎤
(16)
(1978) model, 2 is Vanapalli et al.'s (1996) model, 3 is Vilar's (2006)
B 2 ⎦ model, 4 is Khalili and Khabbaz's (1998) model, and 5 is Bao et al.'s
where y∗ = R2 − x 2 and x1∗ = R2 − di2 (i = 1, 2), according to the (1998) model, as listed in Table 1. The stability factors can be easily
geometric relationships of the failure mechanism. obtained for practical use.
Angle θB can be obtained based on the trigonometric relations,
6.2. Comparison
sin θ0
θB = arctan
cos θ0 − ζ (17) A numerical simulation is conducted in this section to investigate
the validity of the solutions in this study, as follows: According to the
sin (θh − θ0) e (θh − θ0 ) tanφ ′ sin θh − sin θ0 definition of the stability factor Ns, the safety factor of the slope under
ζ= − sin(θh + β ) the corresponding stability factor should be equal to 1.0. In this regard,
sin θh sin θh sinβ (18)
the finite difference software FLAC3D is used to calculate the safety
Eq. (16) can be briefly written as factor. Taking the 3D slope with the stability factor of 21.08 in the first
row and the first column in Table 3 for example. With regard to the
Wγ − 3D = γωr04 g9 (19) slope, the unit weight γ = 20 kN/m3, the slope angle β = 60°, the ratio
B/H = 5.0 and the internal friction angle φ′ = 34°. The height of the
For the insertion block, the work rate of the soil weight can be c′N 10kPa × 21.08
slope can be obtained as Hc = γ s = 20 kN / m3 = 10.54 m and the co-
briefly written as
hesions of the slopes corresponding to Table 3 can be calculated from
Wγ − insert = γωr04 g10 (20) the equations in Table 1, as listed in Table 4.
Thereafter the numerical model of the 3D slope corresponding to
The total work rate by soil weight can be expressed as the stability factor in the first row and the first column in Table 3 is
established and the safety factor of the slope is then calculated in virtue
Wγ = Wγ − 3D + Wγ − insert = γωr04 (g9 + g10) (21) of FLAC3D, as shown in Fig. 4.
It is found from the Fig. 4 that the slope has the safety factor of
where g9 and g10 are as given in the Appendix A.
1.092, which is a slightly > 1.0. This is reasonable for that the stability
factors in Table 3 are the upper bound solutions. In such a way, the
5.3. Slope height and optimization solutions in this study can be proved valid.

Equating the external work rates to internal energy dissipation, the 6.3. Parameter analysis under uniform suction
height of a 3D slope in unsaturated soils can be written as follows.
For the condition that the matric suction is linearly distributed The effects of uniformly distributed matric suction on 3D slope
along with the depth, stability are illustrated herein. Fig. 5(a) and (b) show the stability

106
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

Table 4 6.4. Parameter analysis under linear suction with depth


Cohesions corresponding to the stability factors in Table 3.
A parameter analysis is described in this part to analyze the effects
SWCC Cohesion corresponding to the stability factors in Table 3/kPa
models of the linearly increased matric suction on the slope stability. Fig. 6(a)
0 20 40 80 100 120 and (b) are the stability factors along with B/H under a variation in
magnitude ρ for β = 60° and 75°, respectively. Fig. 6(c) and (d) illus-
No. 1 1 10.0 12.03 13.15 14.98 15.80 16.57
trate the variation rules of the stability factors along with ρ under dif-
2 10.0 10.0 10.0 10.0 10.0 10.0
3 10.0 11.27 11.33 11.37 11.37 11.38 ferent ratios B/H and slope angles β, respectively.
4 10.0 11.77 12.42 13.31 13.66 13.97 It is shown in Fig. 6(a) and (b) that, as expected, the stability factors
5 10.0 10.0 10.0 10.0 10.0 10.0 increase with the variation in magnitude ρ of the matric suction. In
No. 2 1 10.0 14.08 13.65 13.57 13.71 13.82 addition, an interesting phenomenon takes place in that the point of the
2 10.0 15.30 14.35 13.01 10.0 10.0
smallest curvature radius of Ns along with the ratio B/H moves forward
3 10.0 12.90 13.25 13.39 13.51 13.54
4 10.0 16.29 18.60 20.32 22.98 24.10 from B/H = 1.1 for ρ = 0 to B/H = 1.8 for ρ = 10.0, meaning that
5 10.0 17.25 18.25 16.90 10.0 10.0 magnitude ρ will influence the 3D effect of an unsaturated slope in
No. 3 1 10.0 22.98 33.58 40.69 45.92 45.80 addition to the stability of a 3D slope. Fig. 6(c) and (d) indicate that, the
2 10.0 23.20 35.0 44.53 56.58 59.79
changes in rules of Ns along with magnitude ρ are strongly influenced
3 10.0 17.78 20.94 22.65 24.46 24.99
4 10.0 23.49 36.98 46.61 56.07 60.0 by the slope angle and ratio B/H. The increasing trends in the stability
5 10.0 23.49 36.98 48.0 61.84 67.29 factors along with ρ become increasingly gentle, and even horizontal,
No. 4 1 10.0 23.47 36.88 50.21 76.48 89.37 with regard to the condition of B/H = 5.0 and β = 90°, indicating that
2 10.0 23.48 36.93 50.34 76.97 90.17 the influence of the linear increased pattern of matric suction on the
3 10.0 21.85 31.12 38.58 49.84 54.19
slope stability is much more significant on gentle slopes (β ≤ 45°) with
4 10.0 23.49 36.98 50.47 77.45 90.94
5 10.0 23.49 36.98 50.47 77.45 90.94 a narrower width, compared with steep 2D slopes.

6.5. Parameter analysis under shear strength nonlinearity


factors along with the ratio B/H under different matric suction values of
0, 25 and 50 kPa for β = 60° and β = 75°, respectively. Fig. 5(c) and (d) The effects of shear strength nonlinearity on slope stability are de-
demonstrate the stability factors versus the matric suction under dif- monstrated in Fig. 7, with regard to the soil types in Table 2 and the
ferent ratios B/H and slope angles β, respectively. nonlinear strength estimation functions in Table 1. Fig. 7(a) through (d)
Fig. 5(a) and (b) show that the stability factors decrease sharply are illustrations of stability factors of a slope as a function of the matric
within B/H ≤ 1.5, the variation rules of which then become gentle and suction in (a) sandy soil, (b) fine-grained soil, (c) clay, and (d) ex-
eventually barely change for B/H ≥ 10.0. It is clear that the matric tremely fine-grained soils, respectively. In Fig. 7, at β = 60° and B/
suction (ua − uw) has a positive effect on the slope stability. For the H = 5.0, effective cohesion and internal frictional angle are selected as
conditions of β = 60°, φ = 15°, φb = 15°, and B/H = 3.0, the stability c' = 10 kPa and φ' = 34°.
factor increases by 44.67% and 89.34% as the matric suction increases From Fig. 7, it is clear that the soil types and shear strength esti-
from 0 to 25 and 50 kPa, respectively. Fig. 5(a) and (b) also show that mation equations can both influence the values of the stability factors of
the existence of the matric suction has little influence on the effects of the slopes in unsaturated soil. More specifically, for sandy soil, as
the ratio B/H on the slope stability, and that the varying patterns of shown in Fig. 7(a), the stability factors are lower than those under the
stability factors under (ua − uw) = 25 kPa and (ua − uw) = 50 kPa in commonly adopted φb = 15°. The curves of the stability factors ob-
unsaturated soils and the rules by Michalowski and Drescher (2009) are tained by Vanapalli et al. (1996) and Bao et al. (1998) are horizontal
the same. From Fig. 5(c) and (d), it is clear that the stability factors and overlapped, meaning that sandy soil shows saturated behaviors
increase linearly along with the matric suction, and that the variations under these two models, but nonlinear functions under the other three
in slope angle β results in little change in the impact of the matric models within (ua − uw) ≤ 40 kPa, and then degenerates into a linear
suction on the stability factors of a slope. It can also be seen from form. The differences in the stability factors obtained under the models
Fig. 4(c) that, under the condition of B/H = 10.0, solutions under a 3D are limited, and the effects of the matric suction on the stability analysis
failure mechanism are in good agreement with the 2D solutions, of soil with a small AEV (AEV = 0.5 kPa) can be ignored, which is in
meaning that 3D solutions will degenerate into 2D solutions once the accordance with the results by Zhang et al. (2014).
ratio B/H exceeds 10.0. As for the fine-grained soil, the curves under Bao et al.'s (1998)
model and Vanapalli et al.'s (1996) model show similar trends in that

Fig. 4. Geometrical parameters and the safety factor of the 3D slope.

107
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

50 40
Present solution
(a) Present solution
Solution by Michalowski and Drescher , 2009 (b)
40 Solution by Michalowski and Drescher, 2009
30
β=60°, φ'=15°, φb=15° β=75°, φ'=15°, φb=15°
ua-uw=0 ua-uw=0
30
25kPa 25kPa
Ns

Ns
50kPa 20
50kPa
20

10
10

0 0
0 2 4 6 8 10 0 2 4 6 8 10
B/H B/H
80 80

(c) β=60°, φ'=15°, φb=15° (d) B/H=5.0, φ'=15°, φb=15°


60 60
Ns

Ns
40 40
1.5 3.0 10.0
B/H=0.6 β=30°
1.0
20 20 45°
60°
75°
90°
2D solutions
0 0
0 20 40 60 80 100 0 20 40 60 80 100
ua-uw/(kPa) ua-uw/(kPa)

Fig. 5. Effects of uniformly distributed matric suction on 3D slope stability.

60 60
Present solution (a) Present solution (b)
Solution by Michalowski and Drescher , 2009 Solution by Michalowski and Drescher , 2009

40 β=60°, φ'=15°, φb=15° 40 β=75°, φ'=15°, φb=15°


Ns

Ns

ρ= 0 ρ= 0
4.0 6.0
2.0 6.0
2.0 4.0
20 20
10.0
10.0
-1
ρ/(kPa·m ) ρ/(kPa·m-1)
0 0
0 2 4 6 8 10 0 2 4 6 8 10
B/H B/H
60 100

(c) β=75°, φ'=15°, φb=15°


(d) B/H=5.0, φ'=15°, φb=15°
75
40
Ns
Ns

50
1.5 3.0 10.0
B/H=0.6
20 75° 90°
25 β=30°
1.0
45°
60°

0 0
0 2 4 6 8 10 0 2 4 6 8 10
ρ/(kPa·m-1) ρ/(kPa·m-1)

Fig. 6. Slope stability based on change in magnitude of matric suction in unsaturated soil.

108
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

50 80
(a) Sandy soils (b) A fine-grained soils (silt)
b
φ =φ'=34°
φb=φ'=34° φb=15°
40 b
60
Ns φ =15°

Ns
30 40

20 20
af=1, nf=2, mf=1, ψr=10kPa, κ=1.0, cult=11.4kPa
af=10, nf=2, mf=1, ψr=100kPa, κ=1.8, cult=13.7 kPa
10 0
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
(ua-uw)/kPa (ua-uw)/kPa
140 160
(c) Clays (d) Extremely fine-grained soils
120
φb=φ'=34° 120
100
φb=φ'=34°
80
φb=15°
Ns

Ns
80
φb=15°
60

40
40
af=1000, nf=2, mf=1, ψr=10000kPa,
20
af=100, nf=2, mf=1, ψr=1000kPa, κ=2.2, cult=28.4 kPa κ=2.5, cult=107.3kPa
0 0
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
(ua-uw)/kPa (ua-uw)/kPa
Fredlund et al., (1996) Vanapalli et al., (1996)
Vilar, (2006) Khalili and Khabbaz, (1998)
Bao et al., (1998) φb=15°
φb=φ'=34°

Fig. 7. Soil strength nonlinearity on slope stability in unsaturated soils.

the stability factors increase within (ua − uw) ≤ 40 kPa, and then de- 7.1. Pore-water pressure in limit analysis
crease nonlinearly for 40 kPa ≤ (ua − uw) ≤ 100 kPa, finally reaching a
constant value. The stability factors obtained under Fredlund et al.'s In virtue of the limit analysis method, the presence of water inside a
(1996) model and Vilar's (2006) model are very close to each other, slope requires two additional terms of work rates, i.e., Wu′, the work
where those under Khalili and Khabbaz's (1998) model are the largest. rate by pore-water pressure on the volumetric deformation of the soil
The nonlinearity of the stability factors along with the matric suction and Wu′′, the work rate by the water pressures on the boundaries of the
becomes distinct and non-negligible for fine-grained soil. slope (Gao et al., 2014; Michalowski and Nadukuru, 2013; Viratjandr
With regard to clays, the curves of the stability factors approach the and Michalowski, 2006), as follows
line φb = φ′ = 34° within the range (ua − uw) ≤ 60 kPa, after which the
increasing trend decreases. For the special Vilar's (2006) model, the Wu = Wu′ + Wu′ ′ = − (∫ uε ̇ dV + ∫ un v dS )
V

ii u
S
i i u
(25)
stability factors increase slowly when (ua − uw) ≤ 40 kPa, and then
become constantly gradual along with the matric suction when where u = ruγh is the pore-water pressure, ru is the pore water coeffi-
(ua − uw) ≥ 60 kPa. It can be concluded that clays can be treated as cient and h is the vertical distance between the pore-water table and a
soils with linear functions of matric suction φb = φ′ = 34° with smaller point on the failure surface of the slope, Vu is the volume of soil under
matric suctions. When it comes to extremely fine-grained soil, the sta- the pore-water table and Su is the slope surface under water table. For a
bility factor curves become linear, and the stability factors are in good case with no submerged condition or other boundary loads, the work
agreement with those under φb = φ′ = 34°. rate by water pressure on the boundaries of the slope is equal to 0, and
the work rate by pore-water pressure can be expressed as

7. Stability analysis of slope under water drawdown Wu = Wu′ = − ∫V uεii̇∗ dVu (26)

The stability conditions of a totally or partially submerged slope


may change when an inner pore water level drawdown takes place. In 7.2. Failure mechanism of a slope subjected to water drawdown
addition, the acting zone of the matric suction is also related to the
water level. Furthermore, the water table shown in Fig. 3(a) is a special Fig. 8 is the illustration of the failure mechanism of a 3D slope in
case, it is worth investigating the stability of a slope subjected to a unsaturated soil subjected to water drawdown. In Fig. 8, the pore water
water drawdown in unsaturated soil. level is represented as Lw, which is in agreement with the condition
shown in Fig. 3(a). It is assumed that the soil under the water table is
completely saturated, and thus the matric suction can be taken into

109
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

O θB α1∗
D3D = 2ω ∫θ ∫0 c′R (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ

θ0
0

θB
θh α1∗
+ 2ω ∫θ ∫0 c′R (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ

θF
θE
B

θh
θB α1∗
r0 + 2ω ∫θ ∫0 0
(ua − u w ) tan φbR (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
θF α2∗
B A + 2ω ∫θ ∫0 B
(ua − u w ) tan φbR (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
(30)

L w /H
7.3.2. Linearly increased matric suction
rh D If θF < θB, then
F H θF α1∗
z1
D3D = 2ω ∫θ ∫0
0
cR (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
z2 θB α1∗

β E
+ 2ω ∫θ ∫0 F
c′R (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
θh α2∗
C + 2ω ∫θ ∫0 B
c′R (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
(31)
Fig. 8. Illustration of water level drawdown inside a slope in unsaturated soils.
Otherwise, if θF ≥ θB, then
θB α1∗
account within the range of θ0 − θF, and in particular Lw = 1.0 in- D3D = 2ω ∫θ ∫0
0
cR (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
dicates that the slope is completely submerged and there is no matric θF α2∗
suctions inside. In addition, it should be noted here that when the water + 2ω ∫θ ∫0 B
cR (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
table is lower than the slope toe, a water level change can only change θh α2∗
the acting range of the matric suction, while when the water table is + 2ω ∫θ ∫0 F
c′R (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
(32)
higher than the slope toe, the variation of water table can both change
the acting range of the matric suction and the work rate by pore-water θF r θh α2∗ r
pressure inside the slope. Therefore, only the conditions that the water
Dinsert = b ∫θ 0
cv cos φ
cos φ
dθ + b ∫θ ∫0
F
c′v cos φ
cos φ

table is equal or higher than the slope toe is considered in this section. (33)
In accordance with the studies by Viratjandr and Michalowski
(2006) and Gao et al. (2014), in this study, the pore water table is
assumed uniform throughout the slope, and an instantaneous draining 7.3.3. Work rates by pore-water pressure
process is taken place and during which the water table remains vertical If θF < θB, then
within a portion of the slope, as shown in Fig. 8. The assumption of an θB α1∗
instantaneous drawdown will lead to overestimation estimations of the Wu − 3D = 2ωγw tan φ ⎡

∫θ ∫0 F
h1 − 1 (rm + R cos α )2 dθdxRdα
hydraulic gradients, and it is acceptable for practical calculations. θE α2∗
Consequently, according to the studies by (Michalowski and Nadukuru, + ∫θ ∫0 B
h1 − 2 (rm + R cos α )2 dθdxRdα
2013; Saada et al., 2012), the pore water pressures inside a slope can be θh α2∗
treated as an external force, taking into account the energy limit + ∫θ ∫0 E
h2 (rm + R cos α )2 dθdxRdα⎤
⎦ (34)
equilibrium equation.
In virtue of the water drawdown illustration in Fig. 8, the work rate Otherwise, if θLW21 ≥ θB then
by pore-water pressures and variations of the integration bounds for
θE α2∗
matric suction calculations can be calculated: According to the geo- Wu − 3D = 2ωγw tan φ ⎡

∫θ ∫0 F
h1 − 2 (rm + R cos α )2 dθdxRdα
metrical relationships shown in Fig. 8, z1, the vertical distance from the
θh α2∗
water level to the failure surface of the slope, and z2, the vertical dis- + ∫θ ∫0 E
h2 (rm + R cos α )2 dθdxRdα⎤
⎦ (35)
tance from slope surface to the failure surface of the slope, can be
written as z1 ( R2 − x 2 − d1 ) z1 ( R2 − x 2 − d2 )
where h1 − 1 = R − d1
, h1 − 2 = R − d2
and h2 =
z1 = rsinθ − r0 sin θ0 − L w / H (27) z2 ( R2 − x 2 − d2 )
.
R − d2
The work rate by pore water pressure on the insertion block can be
z2 = rsinθ − rh sin θh + (rcosθ − rh cos θh) tan β (28) written as

Wu − insert = ωγw r04 A (36)

7.3. Internal energy dissipation where A = b


H
tanφ {∫ θE z1
θF r 0
exp[2(θ − θ0 ) tan φ]dθ + ∫
θh z2
θE r 0 }
exp[2(θ − θ0 ) tan φ]dθ .

{exp[(θh − θ0 ) tan φ] sin θh − sin θ0}


7.3.1. Uniformly distributed matric suction The stability factors Ns = γHc/c′ for a 3D slope under uniformly
If θF < θB, then distributed and linear increased condition can be obtained with respect
θB α1∗
to the parameters θ0, θh, r′0/r0, and b/B following the restraint condi-
D3D = 2ω ∫θ ∫0
0
c′R (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ tions in Eq. (24) and 0 ≤ Lw ≤ 1.0, as follows:
θh α1∗ For a linearly increased condition,
+ 2ω ∫θ ∫0 c′R (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
B Ns = minf (θ0 , θh , r0′/ r0, b/ H | c′, φ′, φb , γ , B, β , ρ) (37)
θF α1∗
+ 2ω ∫θ ∫0 0
(ua − u w ) tan φbR (rm + R cos α )2dαdθ
(29) For the nonlinearly distributed conditions,

Otherwise, if θF ≥ θB, then Ns = minf (θ0 , θh , r0′/ r0, b/ H | c′, φ′, φb , γ , B, β , (ua − u w ) ) (38)

110
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

Table 5 drawdown significantly influences the stability of a slope, particularly


Stability factors of slope subjected to water drawdown (γ = 20kN/m3, β = 60°, φ′ = 34°, for conditions of higher matric suctions and suction angles under a
B/H = 5.0, and ua − uw = 140 kPa).
lower pore water level. This makes sense because the greater the matric
SWCC Models Water level suction and suction angle are, the stronger the enhancing impacts of the
matric suction on the slope stability will be. A drawdown of the water
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 level indicates a decrease in the pore water pressure acting zone
(θF − θh) and an increase in the acting zone of the matric suction
No. 1 1 6.99 9.30 13.20 19.94 28.77 41.49
2 6.99 8.62 11.14 14.83 18.93 26.08 (θ0 − θF), as shown in Fig. 8, which is beneficial to the slope stability
3 6.99 8.75 11.53 15.79 20.79 28.99 and enhancing effects of the matric suction on this stability.
4 6.99 9.02 12.34 17.81 24.67 35.06
5 6.99 8.62 11.14 14.83 18.93 26.08
No. 2 1 6.99 8.99 12.25 17.58 24.23 34.37
8.3. Parameter analysis under linear suction with depth
2 6.99 8.62 11.14 14.83 18.93 26.08
3 6.99 8.95 12.14 17.32 23.73 33.59 When the matric suction is linearly increased with the depth, as
4 6.99 10.04 15.40 25.40 39.27 57.93 shown in Fig. 10, the effects of the water level drawdown on the sta-
5 6.99 8.62 11.14 14.83 18.94 26.08
bility factors are similar to those under uniformly distributed condi-
No. 3 1 6.99 11.77 20.97 39.23 65.87 99.60
2 6.99 13.19 25.72 51.01 88.54 135.10 tions. A decrease in the water level expands the acing zone (θ0 − θF) of
3 6.99 10.06 15.48 25.6 39.66 58.55 the matric suction and consequently its magnitude, resulting in a
4 6.99 13.35 26.25 52.33 91.09 139.10 greater impacts of the matric suctions on the slope stability and better
5 6.99 14.05 28.61 58.19 102.36 156.74 stability conditions. In addition, it is also clear that an increase in the
No. 4 1 6.99 16.42 37.09 79.24 142.86 220.17
2 6.99 16.50 37.43 80.09 144.48 222.70
matric suction angle φb will accelerate the effects of the matric suction
3 6.99 12.87 24.65 48.36 83.44 127.12 on the slope stability.
4 6.99 16.57 37.76 80.90 146.05 225.17
5 6.99 16.57 37.76 80.90 146.05 225.17
8.4. Parameter analysis under shear strength nonlinearity

8. Numerical results and parameter analysis The stability of slopes under different SWCC models and soil types
are described herein. Fig. 11 illustrates the stability factors of a slope
In this section, some numerical solutions of safety factors of the along with the matric suction under diverse pore water levels. Fig. 12
slope subjected to water drawdown were presented. Thereafter, the shows the rules of the stability factors as a function of the pore water
effects of matric suction distributions of a 3D unsaturated slope sub- level under different SWCC models.
jected to a water level drawdown are demonstrated: First, the linear Fig. 11 shows that the variations in water level will not change the
distributions, i.e., the uniform and linear increased distributions will be effects of the shear strength equations on the stability factors as a
dealt with, followed by the nonlinear functions under different SWCC function of the matric suction. However, it should be noted that when
models. the water level is relatively high (Lw is low, as illustrated in Fig. 8), the
variation in the stability factors is limited and the trends are gentle.
This is due to the fact that when the water table inside a slope increases,
8.1. Numerical solutions a saturated soil area expands, and the acting zone of matric suction
inside the slope shrinks, thereby reducing the effects of the matric
Table 5 shows the stability factors Ns of a 3D unsaturated slope of suction on slope stability. With a constant decrease in the water level,
different pore water levels with respect to γ = 20 kN/m3, β = 60°, B/ the acting zone of matric suction continues to increase, and the effect of
H = 5.0, c' = 10 kPa and φ′ = 34° under different SWCC models. the matric suction on the slope stability becomes more significant.
Fig. 12 shows an illustration of the stability factors corresponding to
8.2. Parameter analysis under uniform suction diverse SWCC models of a slope along with a water level drawdown. In
Fig. 11, c' = 10 kPa, φ′ = 34° and ua − uw = 140 kPa.
The effects of the uniformly distributed matric suction of a slope Fig. 12 shows the variation trends of the stability factors of four
under a water level drawdown are illustrated herein. Fig. 9(a) and (b) classes of soils along with water level Lw under different SWCC models.
show the stability factors as a function of the pore water level Lw under It is clear that the stability factors of an unsaturated slope are directly
matric suction and the effective suction angle φb, respectively. related to the water level, and simultaneously, the SWCC models and
It can be clearly seen in Fig. 9(a) and (b) that the water level suction angle. The variation trends of the stability factors along with the

30 25
(a) b
β=60°, B/H=5.0, φ =15°, φ =15°
b
β=60°, B/H=5.0, φ'=25°, φb=20°
(b)
25 ua-uw=30kPa
ua-uw=100 20

20
Ns
Ns

40 15
60
15 20

0 8°
10
10 10°
ua-uw/(kPa) 14°
5 5
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
Lw Lw

Fig. 9. Effects of water drawdown on slope stability under uniformly distributed pattern of matric suction.

111
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

30 80

b
(b) β=45°, B/H=5.0, φ'=25°, ρ=5.0
25 (a) β=45°, B/H=5.0, φ'=15°, φ =15° φb=20°
ρ=10.0 60 16°
8.0 14°
20

Ns
Ns

6.0 40 10°
15 6°

0
20
10
2.0
4.0
ρ/(kPa/m)
5 0
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
Lw Lw

Fig. 10. Effects of water drawdown on slope stability under linearly increased pattern of matric suction.

40 60
(a) Sandy soils (b) A fine-grained soils (silt)

30
Lw=1.0 Lw=1.0
40
Ns

Ns
20
Lw=0.6

20
10 Lw=0.4

Lw=0.4 Lw=0.6
0 0
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
(ua-uw)/kPa (ua-uw)/kPa

150 120
(c) Clays (d) Extremely fine-grained soils
120
90

90
Lw=1.0
Ns

Ns

60
Lw=1.0
60

30
30

0 0
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
(ua-uw)/kPa (ua-uw)/kPa
Fredlund et al., (1996) Vanapalli et al., (1996)
Vilar, (2006) Khalili and Khabbaz, (1998)
Bao et al., (1998) Totally saturated (Lw=0)

Fig. 11. Effects of matric suction nonlinearity on stability of slope subjected to water drawdown.

water level are aggravated as Lw increases, which is due to the increase for a slope of a lower water level (higher Lw), whose stability factors are
in the acting zone of the matric suction. For sandy and fine-grained soils far above those under φb = 15°, meaning that the average value of
with af smaller than 10 kPa and AEV smaller than 5 kPa, the stability φb = 15° yields conservative estimations on the slope stability for clay
factors are lower than those obtained under the average value suction and extremely fine-grained soil. Furthermore, the variation in magni-
angle of φb = 15°, and the effects of the matric suction on the slope tudes of the stability factors along with water level Lw can be predicted
stability are not crucial and can be ignored for conditions under high to increase as the matric suction (ua − uw) increases.
water levels (Lw ≤ 0.5). At the same time, stability factors obtained
under Vanapalli et al.'s (1996) model, Bao et al.'s (1998) model and the
curve under (ua − uw) = 0 overlap, indicating that these two models 9. Case study
are non-effective for sandy soil, which is in accordance with Fig. 7. As
for clays and extremely fine-grained soil, the matric suction plays a As reported by Rahardjo et al. (2001) and Travis et al. (2010), a
dominant role in the stability of an unsaturated soils slope, particularly number of failures were triggered by rainfall in February 1995 at the
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) campus in Jurong, Western

112
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

40 40
(b) A fine-grained soils (silt)
(a) Sandy soils
30 b
φ =φ' =34° 30 φb=φ' =34°

φb=15° φb=15°

Ns
Ns

20 20

10 10

af=1, nf=2, mf=1, ψr=10kPa, κ=1.0, cult=11.4kPa af=10, nf=2, mf=1, ψr=100kPa, κ=1.8, cult=13.7 kPa
0 0
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
Lw Lw

120 160
(d) Extremely fine-grained soils
(c) Clays
100 b
φ =φ'=34° af=1000, nf=2, mf=1, ψr=10000kPa,
af=100, nf=2, mf=1, 120
κ=2.5, cult=107.3kPa
80 ψr=1000kPa, κ=2.2,
cult=28.4 kPa
φb=φ'=34°
Ns

Ns
60 80

40 φb=15°
b
φ =15° 40
20

0 0
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
Lw Lw
Fredlund et al., (1996) Vanapalli et al., (1996)
Vilar, (2006) Khalili and Khabbaz, (1998)
Bao et al., (1998) φb=15°
φb=φ'

Fig. 12. Effects of water level drawdown on slope stability.

Table 6
Parameters for NTU failure number 4.

Property Value Units

γs 19.6 kN/m3
c' 2.0 kPa
φ' 26.0 deg
φb 13.0 deg
γw 9.8 kN/m3
γd 16.1 kN/m3
θr 13.0 %
θs 35.5 %

Singapore. Among the failures, the Slip number 4 was used by Travis
et al. (2010) to investigate the effects of matric suction on the stability
of the slope in unsaturated clay.
The Slip number 4 had a slope angle of 45°, a width of 7.8 m, a
length of 7 m and a depth of 1 m. With regard to the strength of the
Fig. 13. NTU Slip Number 4 safety factor versus the water table.
unsaturated clay, the failed slope had a saturated unit weight γs of
19.6 kN/m3, a dry unit weight γd of 16.1 kN/m3, and a saturated water
content θs of 35.5%. The effective internal friction angle φ′, the suction To investigate the stability of the slope in unsaturated clay, based on
angle φb, and the cohesion c' were 26°, 13° and 2 kPa respectively, the limit analysis method, four types of calculation models i.e., the liner
found by strength testing. The parameters are as given as in Table 6. increased model, the Fredlund et al.'s (1996) model, and the Vilar's
According to the investigation by Travis et al. (2010), the water (2006) model, are adopted in this section to investigate the effect of the
table inner the Slip number 4 changed rapidly from 5 m to < 1 m owing matric suction on slope stability.
to the storm, resulting in the variation change of the stability status of Fig. 13 shows the safety factors of the Slip number 4 under the di-
the slope. The safety factors of the slope both with and without the verse models versus the storm progression. As investigated by Travis
consideration of the matric suction were calculated under the quasi- et al. (2010), it is clear in Fig. 13 that the slope failed (Fdry/sat = 0.68)
unsteady model by Travis et al. (2010), as shown in Fig. 13. even before the storm under the dry/saturated model. However, when

113
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

the matric suction was taken into consideration, the slope kept a steady (2) When the matric suction is uniformly distributed, an increase in the
state at the beginning of the storm, and then reduced sharply to about matric suction provides stability factors with linear increasing rules.
0.5. When the matric suction linearly increases with depth, the im-
With regard to the models adopted in this study, in accordance with proving effects of the matric suction on the slope stability increase
the investigations by Travis et al. (2010), this study reveals that the as the magnitude of the matric suction variation increases, parti-
matric suction has favorable effects on slope stability. When the water cularly for gentle slopes with a narrower width.
table rises to about 3.5 m, the safety factors of the slope reduce to 1.0, (3) With regard to nonlinear conditions, different SWCC models will
representing the limit state of failure. Thereafter, the safety factors of yield diverse shear strength envelopes and striking differences in
the slope continue to decrease during the storm and eventually reach to the stability factor solutions for different soil types. The average
about 0.5. All of the models indicate a high probability of failure, and value of the suction angle φb = 15° is not reasonable to all types of
the matric suction should be considered in practical engineering for a soil. For sandy soil with lower AEV values, the influences of the
more precise prediction of the slope stability condition. It is worth matric suction can be ignored within(ua − uw) ≤ 40 kPa; for ex-
noting that, even if the most of the safety factors in Fig. 13 are < 1.0, tremely fine-grained soil with a high AEV values, the effects of the
these safety factors are still meaningful and necessary for landslide matric suction on the slope stability can be seen as linear functions
dynamics and risk analysis, as explained by Travis et al. (2010). of φ′ = φb, and for fine-grained soils and clay, the influences of the
matric suction corresponding to different estimation equations on
10. Conclusions the slope stability are diverse and tremendous, and the functions of
the matric suction on the stability of an unsaturated slope should be
In this study, the limit analysis method was employed to investigate seriously considered.
the stability of 3D slopes in unsaturated soils considering different (4) The water level drawdown inside a slope significantly influences
matric suction distributions, strength nonlinearity, and water draw- the intensity of the matric suction on the slope stability because the
down. By introducing different matric suction distribution patterns, the acting zone of the matric suction inside a slope is directly related to
work rates and internal energy dissipations of 3D slopes were calcu- such a drawdown. When the high water table nears the slope crest,
lated, and the critical heights were derived using the energy equili- the effects of the matric suction on the slope stability are negligible.
brium equation. The effects of the matric suction distributions, shear As the water level decreases during the water drawdown process,
strength nonlinearity and water drawdown on the slope stability were the effects of the matric suction on the slope stability become more
investigated. Some numerical solutions were presented for con- remarkable.
venience. The following conclusions from this study can be made:

(1) 3D geometry characteristics have a remarkable impact on the sta- Acknowledgement


bility of 3D unsaturated slopes in that the stability factors experi-
ence a rapid decrease along with B/H within B/H ≤ 1.5, after The preparation of this paper has received financial supports from
which the variation rules become smooth and eventually show little Innovation Foundation for Postgraduate of Central South University,
change. When B/H ≥ 10.0, the solutions can be treated as 2D plane China (2015zzts061), and National Natural Science Foundation
strain solutions. (51378510). The financial supports are greatly appreciated.

Appendix A

1 ⎡ (θ − θ0) tan φ ′ r′
f1 = e + 0 e−(θ − θ0) tan φ ′⎤
2⎢⎣ r0 ⎥

1 ⎡ (θ − θ0) tan φ ′ r′
f2 = e − 0 e−(θ − θ0) tan φ ′⎤
2⎣⎢ r0 ⎥

sin θ0 1 r′ sin θ0
f3 = − ⎡e (θ − θ0) tan φ ′ + 0 e−(θ − θ0) tan φ ′⎤ = − f1
sin θ 2⎢⎣ r0 ⎥
⎦ sin θ

sin θ0 sin(θB + β1) 1 r′ sin θ0 sin(θB + β1)


f4 = − ⎡e (θ − θ0) tan φ ′ + 0 e−(θ − θ0) tan φ ′⎤ = − f1
sin θB sin(θ + β1 ) 2⎣⎢ r0 ⎥
⎦ sin θB sin(θ + β1 )

1
f5 = [(3 tan φ′ cos θh + sin θh ) e3(θh − θ0) tan φ ′ − (3 tan φ′ cos θ0 + sin θ0)]
3(1 + 9tan2 φ′)

1 L⎛ L
f6 = 2 cos θ0 − ⎞ sin θ0
⎜ ⎟

6 r0 ⎝ r0 ⎠

f7 = 1 + sin θ0 + [f2 − e (θ − θ0) tan φ ′] sin θ

f8 = 1 + sin θ0 − e (θ − θ0) tan φ ′ sin θ

⎡f ⎛f 2 + 1 f 2 ⎞ arccos(f / f ) + f ⎛2f + 1 f ⎞ f 2 − f 2 ⎤ dθ
θB
g1 = 2 ∫θ 2 1
2 2⎠ 3 2 2 1
2 3⎠ 2 3
0 ⎣ ⎝ ⎝ ⎦
θB 1 1
g2 = 2 ∫θ f7 ⎡f2 ⎛f12 + f22 ⎞ arccos(f3 / f2 ) + f2 ⎛2f1 + f3 ⎞ f22 − f32 ⎤ dθ
2 ⎠ 2 ⎠
0 ⎣ ⎝ ⎝ ⎦

114
J.-S. Xu, X.-L. Yang Engineering Geology 237 (2018) 102–115

⎡f f 3 arccos(f / f ) + f ⎛f 2 + f f + 2 f 2 + 1 f 2 ⎞ f 2 − f 2 ⎤ sinθdθ
θB
g3 = 2 ∫θ 1 2 3 2 2 1

1 3
3 2 3 3⎠ 2 3
0 ⎣ ⎦

⎡f ⎛f 2 + 1 f 2 ⎞ arccos(f / f ) + f ⎛2f + 1 f ⎞ f 2 − f 2 ⎤ dθ
θh
g4 = 2 ∫θ 2 1
2 2⎠ 4 2 2 1
2 4⎠ 2 4
B ⎣ ⎝ ⎝ ⎦
θh 1 1
g5 = 2 ∫θ f7 ⎡f2 ⎛f12 + f22 ⎞ arccos(f4 / f2 ) + f2 ⎛2f1 + f4 ⎞ f22 − f42 ⎤ dθ
2 ⎠ 2 ⎠
B ⎣ ⎝ ⎝ ⎦

⎡f f 3 arccos(f / f ) + f ⎛f 2 + f f + 2 f 2 + 1 f 2 ⎞ f 2 − f 2 ⎤ sin θdθ


θh
g6 = 2 ∫θ 1 2 4 2 2 1

1 4
3 2 3 4⎠ 2 4
B ⎣ ⎦

b (θh − θ0) tan φ ′ θh


g7 = [e sin θh − sin θ0 ] ∫θ e 2(θ − θ0) tan φ ′⎞⎟ ⎤ dθ
H 0 ⎥
⎠⎦

b (θh − θ0) tan φ ′ θh


g8 = [e sin θh − sin θ0 ] ∫θ f8 e 2(θ − θ0) tan φ ′⎟⎞ ⎤ dθ
H 0 ⎥
⎠⎦

4 2 2
θB ⎡ ⎛f f2f2⎞ ⎛ f2 − f3 ⎞
g9 = 2 ∫θ ⎢ (f22 f3 /8 − f33 /4 − 2f1 f32 /3 − f3 f12 /2 + 2f1 f22 /3) f22 − f32 + ⎜ 2 + 1 2 ⎟ arcsin ⎜
8 2 ⎠ f2 ⎟ cos θdθ
0 ⎢ ⎝
⎣ ⎝ ⎠
4 2 2
θh ⎡ ⎛f f2f2⎞ ⎛ f2 − f 4 ⎞
+2 ∫θ ⎢ (f22 f4 /8 − f43 /4 − 2f1 f42 /3 − f4 f12 /2 + 2f1 f22 /3) f22 − f42 + ⎜ 2 + 1 2 ⎟ arcsin ⎜ ⎟ cos θdθ
⎢ ⎝8 2 ⎠ f2
B
⎣ ⎝ ⎠
b
g10 = (f − f6 − f7 )[e (θh − θ0) tan φ ′ sin θh − sin θ0]
H 5

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