Geotechnical centrifuge modelling of gelifluction processes: validation of a new approach to periglacial slope studies

C Harris, Brice Reid Rea, M C R Davies

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Here we compare scaled centrifuge modelling of gelifluction processes with earlier full-scale physical modelling experiments. The objective is to assess the validity of the centrifuge technique for cryogenic slope-process investigations. Centrifuge modelling allows correct self-weight stresses to be generated within a small-scale physical model by placing it in an elevated gravitational field. This paper describes an experiment in which a scaled frozen-slope model was thawed in a gravitational field equivalent to ten gravities. After four cycles of thawing, during which soil temperatures, pore pressures, thaw settlement and downslope soil displacements were continuously monitored, a series of marker columns were excavated to reveal profiles of soil movement. Comparison of these data with those from an earlier full-scale laboratory simulation experiment indicates that thaw-related gelifluction was successfully reproduced during centrifuge modelling. It is concluded that rates of soil shear strain during gelifluction were not time-dependent, since soil displacements in the centrifuge tests were of a similar magnitude to or greater than those observed in the much longer-duration full-scale simulation. This suggests that no transition occurred in soil behaviour from a frictional plastic to a true viscous fluid during the period of high moisture contents immediately following thaw.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-268
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes




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