Rockfall Hazard Assessment in Volcanic Regions Based on ISVS and IRVS Geomechanical Indices

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In volcanic regions, rockfalls represent a major hazard strongly conditioned by the geomechanical behaviour of volcanic materials, the geomorphological characteristics of the relief and the climatic conditions. Volcanic rocks possess very different properties to those of other lithological groups, presenting highly heterogeneous geomechanical behaviours. Nevertheless, they have received little research attention in the field of geological and geotechnical engineering. To date, the application of geomechanical classifications to characterise and estimate volcanic slope stability has not yielded reliable results, indicating the need to establish specific criteria for these rocks. Consequently, we developed indices to estimate rockfall susceptibility, hazard and risk in volcanic slopes. The index of susceptibility for volcanic slopes (ISVS) is designed to estimate slope susceptibility to instability, which is related to the level of hazard, while the index of risk for volcanic slopes (IRVS) is designed to estimate the level of risk as a function of the potential damage or economic loss caused as a result of rockfalls on slopes. Both indices were developed in order to provide an easily applied procedure that facilitates the adoption of short-term preventive measures against rockfalls. The indices were applied in Tenerife (Canary Islands), which presents exceptional conditions for analysing slope stability in volcanic rocks because of its mountainous orography with very steep slopes and a wide variety of materials. These conditions have frequently precipitated slope instability, causing significant damage to housing, beaches, roads and other infrastructures. After applying these indices to a number of slopes representative of the island’s wide variety of geological, geomorphological and climatic conditions, the results obtained were compared with the actual behaviour of the slopes, determined from extensive rockfall inventory data and in situ geomechanical surveys
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