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Quantitative Risk Assessment of Natural and Cut Slopes: Measuring Uncertainty in the Estimated Risks and Proposed Framework for Developing Risk Evaluation Criteria Open Access


Other title
risk Management
Risk Assessment
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Macciotta, Renato
Supervisor and department
Cruden, David M. (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Morgenstern, Norbert R. (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Martin, C. Derek (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Blatz, James (Civil Engineering - University of Manitoba)
Chalaturnyk, Rick (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Schmitt, Doug (Physics)
Abourizk, Simaan (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Geotechnical Engineering
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Understanding and limiting the risks inherent to natural and cut slopes are now recognized to be a priority in achieving an acceptable quality of life. Various methods of risk management that have been proposed in the last three decades have evolved into a general framework for landslide risk management. In particular, quantitative risk assessments can assist in communicating risks. They also provide a clear and systematic framework to analyze slope failure processes, from origin, to movement, to consequence; and the effect of different remedial works and strategies. Some of the challenges and perceived limitations of quantitative risk assessments are related to the necessary input of expert opinion when estimating the risk levels in a quantitative manner. One objective of this work is the systematic assessment of the uncertainties in the estimated values of risk. Quantitative risk analyses are carried out for two case histories, where population of the analyses input parameters is done as probability distributions rather than fixed values. The probability distributions of the input parameters cover the range of values believed realistic for each input parameter. The risk is then estimated through a Monte Carlo simulation technique, and the outcome of the analysis is a probability distribution of the estimated risk. This methodology shows the potential for evaluating the uncertainties related to risk estimations. The full potential of the risk management framework is best met with the establishment of risk evaluation criteria. The other objective of this work focuses on the development of risk evaluation criteria. It is not the intention of this work to develop case specific criteria, as this responsibility should lie with owners and regulators, but to propose a framework for developing the criteria, where the risk analyst takes an active role. A summary of the state of practice for quantitative risk assessments is included as part of the thesis. The work on the evaluation of uncertainty related to the estimated risks and a proposed framework for developing risk evaluation criteria are then presented. The last two chapters of the thesis present a summary of the research results, conclusions and proposed future research.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Macciotta, R., Cruden, D.M., Martin, C.D. and Morgenstern, N.R. 2011. Combining geology, morphology and 3D modelling to understand the rock fall distribution along the railways in the Fraser River Valley, between Hope and Boston Bar, B.C. International Symposium on Rock Slope Stability in Open Pit Mining and Civil Engineering, Vancouver, BC, Canada, September 2011.Macciotta, R., Martin, C.D., Morgenstern, N.R. 2010. Risk management of large rock slopes - state of practice. Proceedings of the 63rd Canadian Geotechnical Conference, Calgary, AB, Canada. pp. 891-898

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