PhD: Understanding the Effects of Bedrock Fractures and Weathering on critical zone hillslope hydrology and stability

University of Trento

Trento, Italy 🇮🇹

Reference person: Giuseppe Formetta (UNITN/DICAM)
A2 – scholarship on reserved topics
Funded by: University of Trento – Department DICAM
Title: Understanding the Effects of Bedrock Fractures and Weathering on critical zone hillslope
hydrology and stability

Earth’s Critical Zone is the thin outer layer of our planet from the top of the tree canopy to the bottom
of water aquifers that supports almost all human activity. The critical zone is experiencing changes
from growth in human population, wealth and climatic changes. Understanding, predicting and
managing all the processes occurring in this important part of earth is crucial to predict and adapt to
the intensification of extreme events and climate change. For example, landslides present one of the
greatest geologic hazards that currently threaten human society and infrastructure (e.g. review in Sidle
and Ochiai, 2006). Extreme precipitation caused more than 9,500 landslides resulting in more than
29,000 casualties globally since 2007 (Kirschbaum et al., 2010), with over $10 billion in infrastructure
and property damage (Bowman, 2015).

In this project we aim to explore and quantify: i) the hydrological controls of surface and subsurface
processes on water redistribution within the earth critical zone, and ii) the interactions/feedbacks
between subsurface water and the underlying bedrock (topographic stress, weathering structures, and
fractures), with the ultimate goal of improving landslide hazard (timing and location) prediction. We will
explore subsurface saturation and pore pressure development within the critical zone, and at the
boundaries of soil and bedrock layers, developing and using a novel 3D hydrologic model. It will
simulate the 3D surface-groundwater response to rainfall by routing water into spatially varying layers
with different hydraulic conductivity and will be validated in natural landscapes with measurable data.
The project is carried out in collaboration with University California Los Angeles (in the person of
Professor Seulgi Moon) and will involve sharing of measured data and models.

Research project: Prin 2017 SL7ABC
CUP E64I19001840001


POSITION TYPE

ORGANIZATION TYPE

EXPERIENCE-LEVEL