System reliability of slopes using multimodal optimisation

C. Reale, Jianfeng Xue, K. Gavin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (SciVal)


Many engineered and natural slopes have complex geometries and are multi-layered. For these slopes traditional stability analyses will tend to predict critical failure surfaces in layers with the lowest mean strength. A move toward probabilistic analyses allows a designer to account for uncertainties with respect to input parameters that allow for a more complete understanding of risk. Railway slopes, which in some cases were built more than 150 years ago, form important assets on the European rail network. Many of these structures were built at slope angles significantly higher than those allowed in modern design codes. Depending on the local geotechnical conditions these slopes may be susceptible to deepseated failure; however, a significant number of failures each year occur as shallow translational slips that develop during periods of high rainfall. Thus, for a given slope, two potential failure mechanisms might exist with very similar probabilities of failure. In this paper a novel multimodal optimisation algorithm (‘Slips’) that is capable of detecting all feasible probabilistic slip surfaces simultaneously is presented. The system reliability analysis is applied using polar co-ordinates, as this approach has been shown to be less sensitive to local numerical instabilities, which can develop due to discontinuities on the limit state surface. The approach is applied to two example slopes where the complexity in terms of stratification and slope geometry is varied. In addition the methodology is validated using a real-life case study involving failure of a complex slope.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-423
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Early online date7 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2016


  • Embankments
  • Landslides
  • Limit equilibrium methods
  • Numerical modelling
  • Slopes
  • Statistical analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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