Seasonal movement and groundwater flow mechanism in an unsaturated saprolitic hillslope

Anthony Kwan Leung (Lead / Corresponding author), Charles Wang Wai Ng

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    40 Citations (Scopus)


    Numerous field monitoring programs have been conducted to investigate the performance of an unsaturated soil slope subjected to rainfalls in wet seasons. Most case histories focus on the response of matric suction, which is one of the two stress-state variables governing unsaturated soil behaviour. However, effects due to another variable, net normal stress, are often ignored. Also, slope performance under alternative wet and dry seasons is rarely reported and analysed. In this study, a saprolitic hillslope situated in Hong Kong was instrumented heavily to investigate its seasonal movement due to changes of the two variables and also groundwater flow mechanism. Two-year seasonal variations of matric suction and net normal stress were monitored by tensiometers together with heat dissipation matric water potential sensors and earth pressure cells, respectively. During heavy rainstorms in wet season, there was a substantial recharge of the main groundwater table, causing a significant increase of positive pore-water pressure in deeper depths. Rupture surface likely developed at depths between 5.5 and 6 m, hence resulting in a “deep-seated” mode of downslope movement. The downslope movement resulted in a peak increase of horizontal stress. In dry seasons, matric suction of up to 19 kPa was recorded, and the associated soil shrinkage led to substantial upslope rebounds. The stress built up in wet seasons hence reduced. After monitoring period of 2 years, downslope ratcheting is identified. Up to 4 % of the downslope displacements were recovered by the upslope rebounds.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)455-467
    Number of pages13
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


    • Groundwater flow mechanism
    • Matric suction
    • Net normal stress
    • Saprolitic hillslope
    • Seasonal behaviour
    • Slope ratcheting

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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