Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geological Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Thomas Oommen


John S Gierke


Geologic hazards affect the lives of millions of people worldwide every year. El Salvador is a country that is regularly affected by natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tropical storms. Additionally, rainfall-induced landslides and debris flows are a major threat to the livelihood of thousands. The San Vicente Volcano in central El Salvador has a recurring and destructive pattern of landslides and debris flows occurring on the northern slopes of the volcano. In recent memory there have been at least seven major destructive debris flows on San Vicente volcano. Despite this problem, there has been no known attempt to study the inherent stability of these volcanic slopes and to determine the thresholds of rainfall that might lead to slope instability. This thesis explores this issue and outlines a suggested method for predicting the likelihood of slope instability during intense rainfall events. The material properties obtained from a field campaign and laboratory testing were used for a 2-D slope stability analysis on a recent landslide on San Vicente volcano. This analysis confirmed that the surface materials of the volcano are highly permeable and have very low shear strength and provided insight into the groundwater table behavior during a rainstorm. The biggest factors on the stability of the slopes were found to be slope geometry, rainfall totals and initial groundwater table location. Using the results from this analysis a stability chart was created that took into account these main factors and provided an estimate of the stability of a slope in various rainfall scenarios. This chart could be used by local authorities in the event of a known extreme rainfall event to help make decisions regarding possible evacuation. Recommendations are given to improve the methodology for future application in other areas as well as in central El Salvador.

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Engineering Commons