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The control of earthquake sequences on hillslope stability

Brain, M.J.; Rosser, N.J.; Tunstall, N.

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Neil Tunstall
Senior Geotechnical Experimental Officer


Earthquakes trigger landslides in mountainous regions. Recent research suggests that the stability of hillslopes during and after a large earthquake is influenced by legacy effects of previous seismic activity. However, the mechanisms that control hillslope stability in response to ground shaking are poorly constrained in ductile hillslope materials, inhibiting our ability to fully explain the nature of earthquake-triggered landslides. We used geotechnical laboratory testing to simulate earthquake loading of hillslopes and to assess how different sequences of ground shaking influence hillslope stability prior to, during and following an earthquake ‘mainshock’. Ground-shaking events prior to a mainshock that do not result in high landslide strain accumulation can increase bulk density and interparticle friction. This strengthens a hillslope, reducing landslide displacement during subsequent seismicity. By implication, landscapes in different tectonic settings will likely demonstrate different short- and long-term responses to single earthquakes due to differences in the magnitude, frequency and sequencing of earthquakes.


Brain, M., Rosser, N., & Tunstall, N. (2017). The control of earthquake sequences on hillslope stability. Geophysical Research Letters, 44(2), 865-872.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 10, 2017
Online Publication Date Jan 26, 2017
Publication Date Jan 28, 2017
Deposit Date Jan 10, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jul 26, 2017
Journal Geophysical Research Letters
Print ISSN 0094-8276
Electronic ISSN 1944-8007
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Issue 2
Pages 865-872


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (4.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
Advance online version Brain, M. J., N. J. Rosser, and N. Tunstall (2017), The control of earthquake sequences on hillslope stability, Geophysical Research Letters, 44, doi:10.1002/2016GL071879. To view the published open abstract, go to and enter the DOI

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