Geohazards and adverse geo-conditions

Geohazards and adverse geo-conditions
Geohazards and adverse geo-conditions

Typical geologic hazards or other adverse conditions evaluated and mitigated by an engineering geologist include:

  • fault rupture on seismically active faults ;
  • seismic and earthquake hazards (ground shaking, liquefaction, lurching, lateral spreading, tsunami and seiche events);
  • landslide, mudflow, rockfall, debris flow, and avalanche hazards ;
  • unstable slopes and slope stability;
  • erosion;
  • slaking and heave of geologic formations, such as frost heaving;
  • ground subsidence (such as due to ground water withdrawal, sinkhole collapse, cave collapse, decomposition of organic soils, and tectonic movement);
  • volcanic hazards (volcanic eruptions, hot springs, pyroclastic flows, debris flow, debris avalanche, gas emissions, volcanic earthquakes);
  • non-rippable or marginally rippable rock requiring heavy ripping or blasting;
  • weak and collapsible soils, foundation bearing failures;
  • shallow ground water/seepage; and
  • other types of geologic constraints.
An engineering geologist or geophysicist may be called upon to evaluate the excavatability (i.e. rippability) of earth (rock) materials to assess the need for pre-blasting during earthwork construction, as well as associated impacts due to vibration during blasting on projects.

Methods and reporting

The methods used by engineering geologists in their studies include:

  • geologic field mapping of geologic structures, geologic formations, soil units and hazards;
  • the review of geologic literature, geologic maps, geotechnical reports, engineering plans, environmental reports, stereoscopic aerial photographs, remote sensing data, Global Positioning System (GPS) data, topographic maps and satellite imagery;
  • the excavation, sampling and logging of earth/rock materials in drilled borings, backhoe test pits and trenches, fault trenching, and bulldozer pits;
  • geophysical surveys (such as seismic refraction traverses, resistivity surveys, ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys, magnetometer surveys, electromagnetic surveys, high-resolution sub-bottom profiling, and other geophysical methods);
  • deformation monitoring as the systematic measurement and tracking of the alteration in the shape or dimensions of an object as a result of the application of stress to it manually or with an automatic deformation monitoring system; and
  • other methods.

The field work is typically culminated in analysis of the data and the preparation of an engineering geologic report, geotechnical report, fault hazard or seismic hazard report, geophysical report, ground water resource report or hydrogeologic report. The engineering geologic report is often prepared in conjunction with a geotechnical report, but commonly provide geotechnical analysis and design recommendations independent of a geotechnical report. An engineering geologic report describes the objectives, methodology, references cited, tests performed, findings and recommendations for development. Engineering geologists also provide geologic data on topographic maps, aerial photographs, geologic maps, Geographic Information System (GIS) maps, or other map bases.
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