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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 18, issue 8 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 2295-2308, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 29 Aug 2018

Research article | 29 Aug 2018

Combining temporal 3-D remote sensing data with spatial rockfall simulations for improved understanding of hazardous slopes within rail corridors

Megan van Veen1,2, D. Jean Hutchinson1, David A. Bonneau1, Zac Sala1, Matthew Ondercin1,2, and Matt Lato1,2 Megan van Veen et al.
  • 1Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, Queen's University, Kingston, K7L 3N6, Canada
  • 2BGC Engineering Inc., Toronto, M5H 2W9, Canada

Abstract. Remote sensing techniques can be used to gain a more detailed understanding of hazardous rock slopes along railway corridors that would otherwise be inaccessible. Multiple datasets can be used to identify changes over time, creating an inventory of events to produce magnitude–frequency relationships for rockfalls sourced on the slope. This study presents a method for using the remotely sensed data to develop inputs to rockfall simulations, including rockfall source locations and slope material parameters, which can be used to determine the likelihood of a rockfall impacting the railway tracks given its source zone location and volume. The results of the simulations can be related to the rockfall inventory to develop modified magnitude–frequency curves presenting a more realistic estimate of the hazard. These methods were developed using the RockyFor3D software and lidar and photogrammetry data collected over several years at White Canyon, British Columbia, Canada, where the Canadian National (CN) Rail main line runs along the base of the slope. Rockfalls sourced closer to the tracks were more likely to be deposited on the track or in the ditch, and of these, rockfalls between 0.1 and 10m3 were the most likely to be deposited. Smaller blocks did not travel far enough to reach the bottom of the slope and larger blocks were deposited past the tracks. Applying the results of the simulations to a database of over 2000 rockfall events, a modified magnitude–frequency can be created, allowing the frequency of rockfalls deposited on the railway tracks or in ditches to be determined. Suggestions are made for future development of the methods including refinement of input parameters and extension to other modelling packages.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Rockfalls present a hazard to railways in mountainous terrain. 3-D remote monitoring data can be used to identify events that occurred between data collections. Using a case study from British Columbia, we present a method combining 3-D rockfall event data with spatial rockfall simulations to provide a refined estimate of the frequency of rockfalls presenting a direct hazard to passing trains and railway infrastructure, which is often less than the total number of rockfalls that occurred.
Rockfalls present a hazard to railways in mountainous terrain. 3-D remote monitoring data can be...