Dynamics of dilative slope failure
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Submarine slope failure releases sediments; it is an important mechanism that changes the Earth surface morphology and builds sedimentary records. I study the mechanics of submarine slope failure in sediment that dilates under shear (dilative slope failure). Dilation drops pore pressure and increases the strength of the deposit during slope failure. Dilation should be common in the clean sand and silty sand deposits on the continental shelf, making it an important mechanism in transferring sand and silt into deep sea. Flume experiments show there are two types of dilative slope failure: pure breaching and dual-mode slope failure. Pure breaching is a style of retrogressive subaqueous slope failure characterized by a relatively slow (mm/s) and steady retreat of a near vertical failure front. The retreating rate, or the erosion rate, of breaching is proportional to the coefficient of consolidation of the deposit due to an equilibrium between pore pressure drop from erosion and pore pressure dissipation. The equilibrium creates a steady state pore pressure that is less than hydrostatic and is able to keep the deposit stable during pure breaching. Dual-mode slope failure is a combination of breaching and episodic sliding; during sliding a triangular wedge of sediment falls and causes the failure front to step back at a speed much faster than that from the breaching period. The pore pressure fluctuates periodically in dual-mode slope failure. Pore pressure rises during breaching period, weakens the deposit and leads to sliding when the deposit is unstable. Sliding drops the pore pressure, stabilizes the deposit and resumes breaching. The frequency of sliding is proportional to the coefficient of consolidation of the deposit because dissipation of pore pressure causes sliding. Numerical model results show that more dilation or higher friction angle in the deposit leads to pure breaching while less dilation or lower friction angle leads to dual-mode slope failure. As a consequence, pure breaching is limited to thinner deposits and deposits have higher relative density.