The role of the geological uncertainty in a geotechnical design – A retrospective view of Freeway No. 3 Landslide in Northern Taiwan

Chih Hsiang Yeh, Jia Jyun Dong, Sara Khoshnevisan, C. Hsein Juang, Wen Chao Huang, Yu Chen Lu

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15 Scopus citations


The importance of the geological model in a geotechnical engineering project has long been recognized. However, the uncertainty associated with the geological model has rarely been quantified and explicitly considered in the geotechnical design. This paper explores the role of the geological model uncertainty and the benefit of reducing such uncertainty in a geotechnical design. To this end, the landslide that occurred on 25 April 2010 at 3.3 K of Freeway No. 3 in Northern Taiwan, referred to herein as NH-3 Slope, is re-analyzed with an assumed geological model (a dip-slope model in this case) under various uncertainty scenarios. Traditionally, the design (i.e., a choice of design parameters such as slope height, slope angle, and supporting anchors) of a rock slope seeks to satisfy a target factor of safety (FS). In the case of NH-3 Slope, the apparent dip angle of the slip surface along the dip direction of slope constitutes the geological model of concern. Different survey techniques produce data with varying degrees of error (or uncertainty) in the measured apparent dip angle. For example, data from a Regional Geological Map (RGM) typically yields an estimate of the bedding plane attitude with a significant level of uncertainty due primarily to low data density. In contrast, LiDAR can significantly reduce the uncertainty of the derived bedding plane attitudes. By lowering this uncertainty, the variation (or uncertainty) in the computed FS may be reduced, which tends to yield a lower failure probability (Pf), given other conditions being the same. The benefit of lowering the geological model uncertainty in a geotechnical design is demonstrated through a retrospective analysis of the NH-3 Slope.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106233
JournalEngineering Geology
StatePublished - 20 Sep 2021


  • Dip angle
  • Failure probability
  • Geological model uncertainty
  • Landslide
  • LiDAR


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