Dr Nick Rosser
My research is focussed upon the recognition of the role of material deformation characteristics in controlling the spatial and temporal nature of slope failure. My research uses the extension of new theoretical models, which underpin the most recent developments in the understanding the mechanics of slope failure, from the laboratory to the field. From a risk management perspective this concerns broadly the critical elements of when, where and how slopes fail.
This work falls into four areas of investigation :
1) The prediction of failure: from theory to laboratory to field
The research builds upon lab work which examines the mechanisms of shear rupture at the micro-scale in the laboratory, with particular emphasis on time dependant models to predict the nature and timing of final failure. The work examines movement patterns of landslides and rock slope failures, using internal mechanics of shear plane evolution as the control on failure character. As such, ultimate failure is almost exclusively constrained by internal slope deformation processes rather than external forcing, which has considerable implications for slope design, management and mitigation. The most significant implication of the research is that, theoretically failure timing can be forecast. This model of failure evolution requires significant further research and verification.
My research examines four specific areas:
- failure model validation on real slopes;
- the analysis of the surface expression of strain in failing masses, both modeled and real-world;
- the identification, monitoring and use of precursory signals to failure; and
- the examination of the concept of ‘critical strain’, for natural slopes.
2) Appropriate methods for measuring and monitoring landslides
A focus of my research has been to demonstrate the inadequacy of existing methods or characterising and monitoring landslides, and to explore and develop new techniques. New approaches are now able to obtain the precision of ground instrumentation with the data density and coverage of more conventional remote sensing. The scientific rationale for undertaking this approach is that a high resolution, high precision characterisation of the strain field associated with a failing mass has the potential to add spatial clarity to the temporal dimension of the model of progressive failure. I have applied these approaches to several natural systems, including coastal rock slopes, tropical landslides, and large inland rock faces.
My research takes this forward in five areas:
- the long-term 3D monitoring of failing slopes;
- the development of new laser based monitoring technology;
- the analysis of the errors and associated data quality from these techniques;
- the development of real-time monitoring and early warning technology;
- high-tech to low-tech transfer of appropriate technology for slope monitoring and warning.
3) Application of models of failure to decision making
The majority of the projects which I have undertaken have had the primary focus of informing end user decision making and minimising financial and social risk in relation to slope hazards. A critical component of the research is multi-disciplinary collaboration, both within disciplines related to understanding the nature of hazards (geotechnical / civil engineering, geomatics, engineering geology, geography), and also to those concerned with the social aspects of hazards (politics, education, economics, development). A specific example of the need for this research to be undertaken within a multidisciplinary environment relates to the provision of landslide warning based upon models of progressive failure.
My research examines:
- appropriate community level data collection and interpretation;
- using science to inform decision making in hazard prone countries, through for example capacity building;
- social vulnerability and resilience to landslide hazards in mountainous countries;
- awareness, reporting, disseminating and reacting to landslide and wider natural hazard warnings and prediction data.
4) Use of experience from landslide hazard and risk within wider geographical thought
My interest in theoretical approaches in geomorphology stems from my PhD research in conceptualising previously unreported sorted structures on rocky desert surface as emergent forms. Using a combination of cellular automata models with novel characterisation and analysis techniques, I was able to demonstrate the role of component properties in directing and responding to the long-term evolution of rocky desert surfaces. More recently, my work has focussed on re-thinking the way in which we approach the development of landforms, for example coastal cliffs, based upon the understanding of material deformation process obtained from work on landslides. Using high resolution monitoring data sets I have been able to demonstrate the insensitivity of coastal cliffs to marine forcing, previously assumed as a given, but rather the significant changes to cliffs result from a sequence of preparation events, which appear to follow a progressive style of behaviour, similar to that demonstrated in the development of failures in slopes.
My research in the follows three related areas:
- conceptual links between developments in landslide studies, geomorphology and other disciplines, focussing upon time dependant behaviour;
- empirically based modelling of the development of landforms considering inheritance, persistence and antecedence characteristics;
- scale linkage between the evolution of individual slope failures, critical strain thresholds, landscape evolution and tectonics.
- Catchment, River and Hillslope Science (CRHS)
- Institute of Hazard, Risk & Resilience (IHRR)
- Coastal Behaviour and Rates of Activity (COBRA)
- Debris Flow Fan Dynamics (2008 - 2011)
- Monitoring Programme for the Whitby TV mast site
Journal papers: academic
- Barlow, J., Lim, M., Rosser, N.J., Petley, D.N., Brain, M.J., Norman, E.C. & Geer, M. Modeling cliff erosion using negative power law scaling of rockfalls. Geomorphology. 2012;139-140:416–424.
- Schürch, P., Densmore, A.L., Rosser, N.J., Lim, M. & McArdell, B. Detection of surface change in complex topography using terrestrial laser scanning: application to the Illgraben debris-flow channel. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 2011;36:1847-1859.
- Schürch, P., Densmore, A.L., Rosser, N.J. & McArdell, B.W. Dynamic controls on erosion and deposition on debris-flow fans. Geology. 2011;39:827-830.
- Parker, R.N., Densmore, A.L., Rosser, N.J., de Michele, M., Li, Y., Huang, R., Whadcoat, S. & Petley, D.N. Mass wasting triggered by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake is greater than orogenic growth. Nature Geoscience. 2011;4:449-452.
- Cockell, C.S., Pybus, D., Olsson-Francis, K., Kelly, L., Petley, D.N., Rosser, N.J., Howard, K. & Mosselmans, F. Molecular characterization and geological microenvironment of a microbial community inhabiting weathered receding shale cliffs. Microbial Ecology. 2011;61:166 - 181.
- Quinn, J.D., Rosser, N.J., Murphy, W. & Lawrence, J.A. Identifying the behavioural characteristics of clay cliffs using intensive monitoring and geotechnical numerical modelling. Geomorphology. 2010;120:107-122.
- Sapsford, M, Petley, D.N., Barlow, J., Brain, M., Lim, M., Norman, E. & Rosser, N.J. The analysis of evaporites from the area around Boulby, North Yorkshire. Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta. 2010;74:A909-A909.
- Dunning, S.A., Rosser, N.J. & Massey, C.I. The integration of terrestrial laser scanning and numerical modelling in landslide investigations. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology. 2010;43:233-247.
- Dunning, S.A., Massey, C.I. & Rosser, N.J. Structural and geomorphological features of landslides in the Bhutan Himalaya derived from Terrestrial Laser Scanning. Geomorphology. 2009;103:17-29.
- Rosser, N.J. & Petley, D.N. Monitoring and modeling of slope movement on rock cliffs prior to failure. Landslides and Engineered Slopes: From the Past to the Future, Vols 1 and 2. 2008;1265-1271.
- Rosser, N.J., Lim, M., Petley, D.N., Dunning, S. & Allison, R. Patterns of precursory rockfall prior to slope failure. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface. 2007;112.
- Petley, D.N., Hearn, G.J., Hart, A., Rosser, N.J., Dunning, S.A., Oven, K. & Mitchell, W.A. Trends in landslide occurrence in Nepal. Natural Hazards. 2007;43:23-44.
- Dunning, S.A., Rosser, N.J., Petley, D.N. & Massey, C.R. Formation and failure of the Tsatichhu landslide dam, Bhutan. Landslides. 2006;3:107-113.
- Díaz-Andreu, M., Brooke, C., Rainsbury, M. & Rosser, N.J. The spiral that vanished: the application of non-contact recording techniques to an elusive rock art motif at Castlerigg stone circle in Cumbria. Journal of Archaeological Science. 2006;33:1580-1587.
- Lim, M., Petley, D.N., Rosser, N.J., Allison, R.J., Long, A.J. & Pybus, D. Combined digital photogrammetry and time-of-flight laser scanning for monitoring cliff evolution. The Photogrammetric Record. 2005;20:109-129.
- Díaz-Andreu, M., Hobbs, R., Rosser, N.J., Sharpe, K. & Trinks, I. Long Meg: Rock Art Recording Using 3D Laser Scanning. Past. 2005;50:2-6.
- Rosser, N.J., Petley, D.N., Lim, M., Dunning, S.A. & Allison, R.J. Terrestrial laser scanning for monitoring the process of hard rock coastal cliff erosion. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology. 2005;38:363-375.
- Migoń, P., Goudie, A., Allison, R. & Rosser, N. The origin and evolution of footslope ramps in the sandstone desert environment of south-west Jordan. Journal of Arid Environments. 2005;60:303-320.
- Goudie, A.S., Migon, P., Allison, R.J. & Rosser, N.J. Sandstone geomorphology of the Al-Quwayra area of south Jordan. Zeitschrift Fur Geomorphologie. 2002;46:365-390.
- Allison, R.J., Grove, J.R., Higgitt, D.L., Kirk, A.J., Rosser, N.J. & Warburton, J. Geomorphology of the eastern Badia basalt plateau, Jordan. Geographical Journal. 2000;166:352-370.
- Rosser, N.J., Dunning, S.A., Lim, M. & Petley, D.N. Terrestrial laser scanning for quantitative rockfall hazard assessment. In: Hungr, O., Fell, R., Couture, R. & Ebergardt, E. Landslide Risk Management. Amsterdam: A.T. Balkema; 2007.
- Rosser, N.J., Petley, D.N., Dunning, S.A., Lim, M. & Ball, S. The surface expression of strain accumulation in failing rock masses. In: Eberhardt, E., Stead, D. & Morrison, T. Rock Mechanics: Meeting Society's Challenges and Demands: Proceedings of the 1st Canada-US Rock Mechanics Symposium, Vancouver, Canada, 27–31 May 2007. Oxford: Taylor & Francis; 2007.
- Dunning, S.A., Petley, D.N., Strom, A.L. & Rosser, N.J. The morphologies and sedimentology of valley confined rock-avalanche deposits and their effect on Landslide Risk Management. In: Hungr, O., Fell, R., Couture, R & Ebergardt, E. Landslide Risk Management. Amsterdam: Balkema; 2006:691-704.
- Petley, D.N., Higuchi, T., Dunning, S., Rosser, N.J., Petley, D.J., Bulmer, M.H.K. & Carey, J. A new model for the development of movement in progressive landslides. In: Hungr, O., Fell, R., Couture, R. & Ebergardt, E. Landslide Risk Management. Amsterdam.: Balkema; 2005.
- Petley, D.N., Dunning, S.A. & Rosser, N.J. The analysis of global landslide risk through the creation of a database of worldwide landslide fatalities. In: Hungr, O., Fell, R., Counture, R. & Ebergardt, E. Landslide Risk Management. Amsterdam.: Balkema; 2005:367-374.
- Rosser, N.J., Dunning, S.A., Lim, M. & Petley, D.N. The application of a terrestrial laser scanning technique for quantitative rockfall hazard assessment. In: Hungr, O., Fell, R., Couture, R. & Ebergardt, E. Landslide Risk Management. Amsterdam.: Balkema; 2005.
Book chapters: online
- Rosser, N.J. Analogue modelling of the evolution of brittle slope failures. In: Williams, A.L., Pinches, G.M., Chin, C.Y., McMorran, T.J. & Massey, C.I. Geologically Active. London: CRC Press; 2010.
- Norman, E.C., Rosser, N.J., Petley, D.N., Lim, M., Barlow, J. & Brain, M.J. Exploring the relationship between tidal duration and energy delivery to a coastal cliff. In: Williams, A.L., Pinches, G.M., Chin, C.Y., McMorran, T.J. & Massey, C.I. Geologically Active. London: CRC Press; 2010.
- Parker, R., Petley, D.N., Rosser, N.J., Densmore, A.L. & Whadcoat, S. Mapping and monitoring the spatial distribution of landslide hazards induced by the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake, Sichuan Province, China. In: Williams, A.L., Pinches, G.M., Chin, C.Y., McMorran, T.J. & Massey, C.I. Geologically Active. London: CRC Press; 2010.
- Petley, D.N., Rosser, N.J., Karim, D., Wali, S. Ali, Nasab, N. & Shaban, K. Non-seismic landslide hazards along the Himalayan Arc. In: Willians, A.L., Pinches, G.M., Chin, C.Y., McMorran, T.J. & Massey, C.I. Geologically Active. London: CRC Press; 2010:143 - 154.
- Brain, M.J., Rosser, N.J., Petley, D.N., Lim, M., Barlow, J. & Norman, E.C. Rock mass strength response to dynamic loading in hard rock coastal cliffs. In: Williams, A.L., Pinches, G.M., Chin, C.Y., McMorran, T.J. & Massey, C.I. Geologically Active. London: CRC Press; 2010.
- Parker, R.N., Rosser, N.J., Densmore, A.L. & Petley, D.N. Automated landslide detection algorithms to investigate controls on the spatial distribution of landslides triggered by the Wenchuan Earthquake, Sichuan Province, China. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Next Generation Research on Earthquake-induced Landslides. Taiwan: 2009.
- Oven, K.J., Petley, D.N., Rigg, J.R, Dunn, C.E. & Rosser, N.J. Landscape, livelihoods and risk: A study of community vulnerability to landslide events in Central Nepal. In: Aryal, K.R. & Gadema, Z. Climate change and disaster risk reduction. Disaster and Development Centre, School of Applied Science, Northumbria University: 2008:94-102.
- Petley, D.N., Dunning, S.A., Rosser, N.J. & Kausar, A-B. Incipient landslides in the Jhelum Valley, Pakistan following the 8th October 2005 earthquake. In: Marui, H. Disaster mitigation of debris flows, slope failures and landslides. Frontiers in Science Series. Tokyo, Japan: Universal Academy Press; 2006:47 - 56.
- Dunning, S.A., Petley, D.N. & Rosser, N.J. Structural and geometrical mapping of unstable slopes using terrestrial laser scanning - a basis for numerical modelling. In: Ashaari, M. Proceedings of the International Conference on Slopes, Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Public Works; 2006:181 - 208.
- Petley, D.N., Oven, K., Mitchell, W., Rosser, N.J. & Dunning, S.A. The role of global and regional precipitation patterns in landslide generation. In: Ashaari, M. Proceedings of the International Conference on Slopes Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Public Works; 2006:249 - 268.
- Rosser, N.J., Petley, D.N. & Dunning, S.A. Towards forecasting the timing and geometry of rock slope failures. In: Ashaari, M. Proceedings of the International Conference on Slopes Malaysia. Kaula Lumpur: Public Works Department; 2006:57 - 74.
Edited works: conference proceedings
- Rosser, N.J., Lim, M. & Petley, D.N. Monitoring and modelling deformation on failing slopes: implication for understanding landslide failure. 2009.
- Petley, D.N., Rosser, N.J., Dunning, S.A., Mitchell, W. & Kausar, A-B. Earthquake induced ground deformation caused by the Mw = 7.6 Kashmir Earthquake. 2007.
- Petley, D.N. & Rosser, N.J. On the mechanics of a typhoon-induced landslide. 2006.
Journal papers: online
- Parker, R.N., Rosser, N.J., Densmore, A.L. & Petley, D.N. Investigating controls on the spatial distribution of landslides triggered by the Wenchuan Earthquake, Sichuan Province, China. Proceedings of the Annual General Conference of the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society. 2009.