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Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research

Scenario-driven Projections of Unstable Natural slopes affected by climate CHange ('PUNCH')

Executive Summary
ResearchersProf N. Dixon (Project Leader and Loughborough Principal Investigator): Loughborough University
Prof E. N. Bromhead (Kingston Principal Investigator: CEESR
Dr A. P. Dykes (Kingston Co-investigator): CEESR
Dr M. J. Smith (Kingston Co-investigator): CEESR
Ms M. Ibsen (Kingston Co-investigator): School of Engineering/CEESR
Dr N. Cheung (Kingston Co-investigator): School of Earth Sciences & Geography/CESR
Mr N. P. Koor (Portsmouth Principal Investigator): Portsmouth University
to be confirmed (Co-investigator): Newcastle University
to be confirmed (Co-investigator): British Geological Survey
Funding Body/SourceEPSRC
Durationplanned for 2008-2012
Project SummaryThe aim of the PUNCH project is to understand if natural slopes containing old landslides will move in response to the changing climate and to develop methods for urban and infrastructure managers to plan and cope with these new risks.

Topography, geology, climatic conditions and human modification result in slope processes having a significant impact on built environment and infrastructure assets in the UK. A significant proportion of the risk to 90,000 properties (c. £20 billion of asset) identified by the British Geological Survey as being on potentially unstable sites is from the reactivation of shallow relict landslides. The London Clay Formation, Lias Group and Gault Formation all result in a landslide hazard (primarily from such reactivations) disproportionately large given their land coverage. Furthermore, over 7% of the main transport network (motorways, railway lines and A-roads) are located in areas with significant or moderate landslide potential.

Above left: Landslide in London Clay coastal cliff that destroyed a business property at its head and threatened a main road below. Above right: One of the proposed project field sites: a typical shallow landslide on a gentle London Clay slope near Hadleigh Castle, Essex.

Currently, the design and management of infrastructure and urban assets affected by natural slope instability is carried out on the basis of specified standards and guidelines that assume static environmental conditions. However, changes in dominant input parameters (such as precipitation and temperature) are now clearly occurring at a rate that demands a fundamental review of this approach - and the question should be posed whether steady state information is irrelevant at best or misleading at worst. The aims of the proposed project are therefore to develop methodologies that will (i) enable scenario-driven assessments of the activity of shallow landslides in a context of climate change, and (ii) allow assessment of the potential impact on infrastructure and urban assets.

The objectives will be achieved through collaboration within a multi-disciplinary team of nationally and internationally recognized experts working closely with younger scientists and engineers (including geomorphologists, geologists, engineering geologists, civil engineers, asset and infrastructure owners and operators).Dependent upon the outcomes from these studies, if a need for major changes in asset management is been identified, the project will communicate this with professional bodies and standards institutions to facilitate a rapid uptake of this new information into design and management guidelines.

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