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Geological Hazards in the UK: Their Occurrence, Monitoring and Mitigation

Product Code: SPE29
Series: GSL Engineering Geology Special Publications - print copy
Author/Editor: Edited by D.P. Giles and J.S. Griffiths
Publication Date: 14 July 2020
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Engineering Geology Special Publication 29, Engineering Group Working Party Report

Published online 09/06/2020. Please scroll down for information on accessing content online.

Print copies available from 14/07/2020. Reprinted April 2022.

The UK is perhaps unique globally in that it presents the full spectrum of geological time, stratigraphy and associated lithologies within its boundaries. With this wide range of geological assemblages comes a wide range of geological hazards, whether they be geophysical (earthquakes, effects of volcanic eruptions, tsunami, landslides), geotechnical (collapsible, compressible, liquefiable, shearing, swelling and shrinking soils), geochemical (dissolution, radon and methane gas hazards) or georesource related (coal, chalk and other mineral extraction). An awareness of these hazards and the risks that they pose is a key requirement of the engineering geologist. 

The Geological Society considered that a Working Party Report would help to put the study and assessment of geohazards into the wider social context, helping the engineering geologist to better communicate the issues concerning geohazards in the UK to the client and the public. This volume sets out to define and explain these geohazards, to detail their detection, monitoring and management and to provide a basis for further research and understanding.

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Type: Book
Ten Digit ISBN:
Thirteen Digit ISBN: 9781786204615
Publisher: GSL
Binding: Hardback
Pages: 490
Weight: 1.4 kg


Chapter 1 Introduction to Geological Hazards in the UK: Their Occurrence, Monitoring and Mitigation, David Peter Giles

1.1 Introduction 
1.2 A history of significant geohazards in the UK 
1.2.1 Gas hazards 1986 Loscoe methane gas explosion, Derbyshire Radon hazard, Northamptonshire 
1.2.2 Karst and dissolution hazard 2012 Carsington Pasture, variable rockhead, Derbyshire Ripon dissolution subsidence, North Yorkshire 
1.2.3 Landslides and slope failures Significant inland landslides 1966 Aberfan tip failure, South Wales 2000 M25 Flint Hall Farm landslide 1979 Mam Tor landslide, Derbyshire Coastal landslides and coastal erosion 1915 Folkestone Warren landslide, Kent 1983 Holbeck Hall landslide, Scarborough, Yorkshire 
1.2.4 Periglacial legacy 1984 Carsington Dam embankment failure, Derbyshire 
1.2.5 Central London, drift-filled hollows 1965 A21 Sevenoaks Bypass slope failures, Kent 1961 M6 Walton’s Wood embankment failure 
1.2.6 Seismic events 1884 Colchester earthquake, Essex 1931 Dogger Bank earthquake, North Sea 
1.2.7 Tsunami events 1755 Lisbon earthquake-generated tsunami c. 8150 BP Storegga submarine landslide and tsunami 
1.2.8 Volcanic events 2010 Eyjafjallajokull ash fall disruption 1783–1784 Laki fissure eruption, Iceland 
1.2.9 Mining hazards 2000 chalk mine collapse, Reading, Berkshire 
1.2.10 Deep coal workings 1945 Ludovic Berry and Dolly the train incident, Wigan 
1.2.11 Geotechnical hazards 1976 subsidence related to clay shrinkage 
1.2.12 Poorly recognized geohazards 
1.3 Geological Society Engineering Group Working Party on Geohazards 
1.3.1 Background 
1.3.2 Membership 
1.3.3 Terms of reference of the Working Party 
1.3.4 Developing the report 
1.3.5 Contents and structure of the report 
1.3.6 Geological hazards: Working Party definitions and report limitations 
1.4 Section A: Tectonic Hazards 
1.4.1 Chapter 2: Seismic hazard in the UK 
1.4.2 Chapter 3: Tsunami hazard with reference to the UK 
1.5 Section B: Slope Stability Hazards 
1.5.1 Chapter 4: Landslide and slope stability hazard in the UK 
1.5.2 Chapter 5: Debris flows 
1.6 Section C: Problematic Ground and Geotechnical Hazards 
1.6.1 Chapter 6: Collapsible soils in the UK 
1.6.2 Chapter 7: Quick-clay behaviour in sensitive Quaternary marine clays: UK perspective 
1.6.3 Chapter 8: Swelling and shrinking soils 
1.6.4 Chapter 9: Peat hazards: compression and failure 
1.6.5 Chapter 10: Relict periglacial hazards 
1.6.6 Chapter 11: Subsidence resulting from coal mining 
1.6.7 Chapter 12: Subsidence resulting from chalk and flint mining Flint mine workings Chalk mine workings 
1.6.8 Chapter 13: Hazards associated with mining and mineral exploitation in Cornwall and Devon, SW England 
1.6.9 Chapter 14: Geological hazards from salt mining and brine extraction 
1.6.10 Chapter 15: Geological hazards from carbonate dissolution 
1.6.11 Chapter 16: Geological hazards caused by gypsum and anhydrite in the UK: dissolution, subsidence, sinkholes and heave 
1.6.12 Chapter 17: Mining-induced fault reactivation in the UK 
1.7 Section E: Gas Hazards 
1.7.1 Chapter 18: Radon gas hazard 
1.7.2 Chapter 19: Methane gas hazard 
Chapter 2 Seismic hazard, R. M. W. Musson
2.1 Earthquakes as a geohazard 

2.2 Distribution of earthquakes in the UK 
2.3 Consequences of British earthquakes 
2.4 Identifying earthquakes as a geohazard in the UK 
2.5 Past practice of seismic hazard in the UK 
2.6 Seismic hazard mapping in the UK 
2.7 Earthquake monitoring in the UK 
2.8 Remedial action 
2.9 Limits to earthquake hazard in the UK 
2.10 Actions to take in an earthquake 
Data sources and further reading 
Chapter 3 Tsunami hazard with reference to the UK, David Peter Giles
3.1 Introduction 
3.2 Tsunami geohazard 
3.3 Tsunami wave characteristics 
3.4 Tsunami generation processes 
3.4.1 Tsunamigenic earthquakes 
3.4.2 Tsunamigenic landslides 
3.4.3 Tsunamigenic volcanism 
3.4.4 Meteotsunami 
3.4.5 Other potential tsunami-generating mechanisms 
3.5 UK tsunami threat 
3.6 Notable tsunami events with a UK impact 
3.6.1 c. 8150 BP Holocene Storegga submarine landslide and tsunami 
3.6.2 c. 5500 BP Holocene Garth tsunami 
3.6.3 1755 AD Lisbon earthquake and tsunami 
3.6.4 1911 AD Abbot’s Cliff failure, Folkestone 
3.6.5 Other Dover Straits events 
3.7 Tsunami management and mitigation 
3.8 Concluding comments 
Chapter 4 Landslide and slope stability hazard in the UK, Edward Mark Lee, David Peter Giles
4.1 Introduction 
4.2 Landslide types 
4.3 The landslide inventory for Great Britain 
4.4 The Irish landslide inventory 
4.5 The landslide environment of the UK 
4.5.1 Peat failures 
4.5.2 Slope deformation: cambering and complex rock block spreads 
4.5.3 Large rock slope failures in the Scottish Highlands 
4.5.4 Flow slides in colliery spoil 
4.5.5 Coastal landslides: cliff behaviour units 
4.6 Causes of landslides 
4.6.1 Landslides and rainfall 
4.6.2 Anthropogenic effects
4.6.3 Landslide controls: the influence of geology 
4.7 Phases of landslide activity 
4.7.1 Repeated phases of glacial and periglacial conditions 
4.7.2 Impact of drainage adjustments during deglaciation 
4.7.3 Postglacial slope responses 
4.7.4 Changing climatic conditions during the Holocene
4.7.5 Climatic deterioration during the Little Ice Age 
4.7.6 Anthropogenic land-use changes 
4.7.7 Extreme events 
4.8 Landslide risk 
4.8.1 Sources of risk 
4.8.2 Assessing risk
4.9 Landslide hazard 
4.9.1 Landslide hazard assessment 
4.9.2 Landslide investigation 
4.10 Landslide risk management 
4.10.1 Avoid the risk 
4.10.2 Restrict or prevent access to the area at risk from landsliding 
4.10.3 Accept the risk 
4.10.4 Share the risk
4.10.5 Transfer the risk through litigation to recover the costs of landslide damage 
4.10.6 Reduce the exposure 
4.10.7 Provide forewarning of potentially damaging incidents 
4.10.8 Incorporate specific ground movement tolerating measures into the building design 
4.10.9 Control the area between a landslide event and the assets at risk 
4.10.10 Reduce the probability of the hazard 
4.11 The role of government in landslide management 
4.11.1 Provision of publicly funded coast protection works 
4.11.2 Control development in high-risk areas 
4.11.3 Control building standards 
4.11.4 Fund and co-ordinate the response to major events 
4.11.5 Protect strategic infrastructure 
4.12 In practice: acceptable or tolerable risks? 
4.13 Concluding remarks 
Chapter 5 Debris flows, M. G. Winter
5.1 Introduction 
5.2 Types of landslide and flow mechanisms
5.3 Occurrence 
5.3.1 A83 Glen Kinglas/Cairndow: 9 August 2004 
5.3.2 A9 North of Dunkeld: 11 August 2004 
5.3.3 A85 Glen Ogle: 18 August 2004 
5.3.4 A83 Rest and be Thankful: 28 October 2007 
5.4 Hazard and risk assessment 
5.5 Risk reduction 
5.6 Impacts 
5.7 Climate change
Chapter 6 Collapsible Soils in the UK, M. G. Culshaw, K. J. Northmore, I. Jefferson, A. Assadi-Langroudi, F. G. Bell
6.1 What are collapsible soils? 
6.2 Loess in the UK 
6.3 How to recognize loessic brickearth 
6.3.1 Description and mineralogy 
6.3.2 Geotechnical properties Particle size distribution Density Plasticity Strength, consolidation and permeability of brickearth/loess 
6.4 Non-engineered fills 
6.5 Identifying collapsibility 
6.5.1 Collapse potential 
6.6 Strategies for engineering management: avoidance, prevention and mitigation 
6.7 Example of damage caused by collapse 
6.8 Conclusions 
Glossary and Definitions 
Further reading 
Chapter 7 Quick clay behaviour in sensitive Quaternary marine clays – a UK perspective, David Peter Giles
7.1 Introduction 
7.2 Mode of formation 
7.3 Geotechnical properties and behaviour 
7.4 Failure mechanisms 
7.5 The UK context
7.6 Geohazard management and mitigation 
7.7 Conclusions 
Chapter 8 Swelling and shrinking soils, Lee Jones, Vanessa Banks, Ian Jefferson
8.1 Properties of shrink–swell soils 
8.2 Costs associated with shrink–swell clay damage 
8.3 Formation processes 
8.4 Distribution 
8.5 Characterization of shrink–swell soils 
8.6 Mechanisms of shrink–swell 
8.7 Shrink–swell behaviour 
8.8 Strategies for engineering management: avoidance, prevention and mitigation 
8.9 Shrink–swell soils and trees 
8.10 Conclusions 
Appendix: Definitions and glossary 
Recommended further reading 
Useful web addresses 
Chapter 9 Peat hazards: compression and failure, Jeff Warburton
9.1 Introduction and scope 
9.2 Engineering background: peat consolidation and compression 
9.2.1 Compression of peat 
9.3 UK peatlands: extent and occurrence 
9.4 Geological hazards associated with peat compressibility 
9.4.1 Subsidence of peat 
9.4.2 Derrybrien landslide, wind farm construction, County Galway 2003 
9.4.3 Direct loading by quarry waste, Harthope Quarry, North Pennine, UK 
9.4.4 Failure during upland road construction, North Pennines, UK 
9.5 Mitigation of the hazards posed by compressible peat soils
9.6 Conclusion 
Chapter 10 Periglacial geohazards in the UK, T. W. Berry, P. R. Fish, S. J. Price, N. W. Hadlow
10.1 Introduction 
10.2 Relict periglacial geohazards 
10.2.1 Deep weathering 
10.2.2 Shallow-slope movements 
10.2.3 Cambering and superficial valley disturbances
10.2.4 Rockhead anomalies 
10.2.5 Cryogenic wedges (ice-wedge pseudomorphs) 
10.3 Subsidiary relict periglacial geohazards 
10.3.1 The influence of periglacial climates and processes on deep-seated landslide systems 
10.3.2 Carbonate dissolution 
10.3.3 Buried terrains 
10.3.4 Submerged periglacial terrains 
10.3.5 Loess and coversand
10.4 Conclusions 
Chapter 11 Coal mining subsidence in the UK, Laurance Donnelly
11.1 Introduction 
11.2 Subsidence characteristics 
11.3 Overview of mining methods 
11.3.1 Adits, drifts (inclines) and shafts 
11.3.2 Bell pits 
11.3.3 Room-and-pillar 
11.3.4 Longwall mining 
11.3.5 Subsidence associated with partial extraction of coal Mine shafts and bell pits Room-and-pillar workings 
11.3.6 Subsidence associated with total extraction of coal Tilt Slope Curvature Strain Horizontal displacements Strain Width–depth ratio Angle-of-draw (limit angle) Area-of-influence Maximum subsidence The subsidence factor Dip of seam Bulking Time-dependent subsidence and residual subsidence Multiple seams 
11.3.7 Subsidence and the engineering properties of soils and rocks Soils/superficial deposits Rock 
11.3.8 Subsidence prediction Empirical methods Analytical or theoretical Semi-empirical methods Void migration 
11.4 Managing subsidence risks Desk study Reconnaissance (walk-over) survey Ground investigations 
11.5 Mitigation and remediation 
11.6 Summary 
Chapter 12 Subsidence – chalk mining, Clive N. Edmonds
12.1 Introduction 
12.2 Geographical occurrence 
12.3 Characteristics of the mine workings 
12.3.1 Flint mine workings Neolithic flint mines Modern flint mines Chalk mine workings Bellpits Deneholes Chalkwells Chalkangles Pillar-and-stall mines 
12.4 Engineering management strategy 
Appendix: Further Reading 
Chapter 13 Hazards associated with mining and mineral exploitation in Cornwall and Devon, SW England, B. Gamble, M. Anderson, J. S. Griffiths
13.1 Introduction
13.2 The geological model and the setting for mining-related hazards 
13.2.1 Geological overview 
13.2.2 Paleozoic rocks of the Variscan (Rhenohercynian) basement Upper Paleozoic rift basins of the Rhenohercynian passive margin Upper Paleozoic mafic and ultramafic rocks of the Lizard Complex Upper Paleozoic allochthons Lower Paleozoic (pre-rift) basement 
13.2.3 Regional structure 
13.2.4 Post-Variscan cover, magmatism, mineralization and alteration 
13.2.5 Superficial deposits 
13.3 History of mining 
13.4 Environmental legacy of mining 
13.4.1 Underground voids and shafts 
13.4.2 Opencast mines 
13.4.3 Waste tips and contaminated land 
13.4.4 Infilled or silted-up estuaries 
13.4.5 Slurry lakes or tailings ponds 
13.4.6 Pollution by contaminated mine water 
13.4.7 Flooding 
13.5 Investigating and assessing the hazards 
13.5.1 Desk studies 
13.5.2 Remote sensing
13.5.3 Geophysics 
13.5.4 Field mapping
13.5.5 Ground investigations
13.5.6 Developing the ground model 
13.5.7 Hazard and risk assessment 
13.5.8 Monitoring 
13.6 Planning, preservation, treatment and remediation
13.6.1 International and local planning 
13.6.2 Preservation 
13.6.3 Treatment and remediation through engineering works 
13.6.4 Derelict land reclamation 
13.6.5 Mine water contamination and remediation 
13.6.6 Case studies of mine site treatment and remediation Wheal Peevor, Redruth, Cornwall. Kerrier District Council (2003–7) The National Trust 
13.7 Conclusions 
Chapter 14 Geological hazards from salt mining, brine extraction and natural salt dissolution in the UK, Anthony H. Cooper
14.1 Introduction 
14.2 Distribution of salt deposits in the Triassic and Permian rocks of the UK 
14.3 Salt karst and natural dissolution 
14.4 Mining and dissolution mining of salt 
14.4.1 Natural ‘wild’ brine extraction 
14.4.2 Shallow salt mining and ‘bastard’ brining 
14.4.3 Modern salt mining
14.5 Mining of Permian salt deposits 
14.5.1 Teesside 
14.6 Mining of the Triassic salt deposits 
14.6.1 Cheshire 
14.6.2 Blackpool and Preesall 
14.6.3 Stafford 
14.6.4 Droitwich 
14.6.5 Northern Ireland 
14.7 Mitigating salt subsidence problems 
14.7.1 Brine Subsidence Compensation Board 
14.7.2 Salt mine stabilization 
14.7.3 Monitoring and investigation 
14.7.4 Planning for soluble rock geohazards 
Chapter 15 Dissolution – carbonates, Clive N. Edmonds
15.1 Introduction 
15.2 Geographical occurrence 
15.3 Characteristics of natural cavities formed by dissolution 
15.4 Engineering management strategy 
Further reading 
Chapter 16 Geohazards caused by gypsum and anhydrite in the UK: including dissolution, subsidence, sinkholes and heave, Anthony H. Cooper
16.1 Introduction 
16.2 The gypsum–anhydrite transition, expansion and heave 
16.3 The gypsum dissolution problem
16.4 Geology of the gypsiferous rocks 
16.4.1 Triassic
16.4.2 Permian 
16.5 Subsidence caused by gypsum dissolution 
16.5.1 Subsidence geohazards around Ripon 
16.5.2 Subsidence geohazards around Darlington 
16.5.3 Subsidence geohazards between Ripon and Doncaster 
16.5.4 Subsidence geohazards in the Vale of Eden
16.5.5 Subsidence over Triassic gypsum 
16.6 Ground investigation: surveying, geophysics and boreholes in gypsum areas 
16.7 Gypsum dissolution as a hazard to civil engineering 
16.8 Problems related to water abstraction and injection in gypsum areas
16.9 Planning for subsidence 
Chapter 17 Mining-induced fault reactivation in the UK, Laurance Donnelly
17.1 Background 
17.2 Occurrence 
17.3 Diagnostic characteristics 
17.4 Mitigation 
Chapter 18 Radon gas hazard, J. D. Appleton, D. G. Jones, J. C. H. Miles, C. Scivyer
18.1 Introduction 
18.2 Other natural sources of radiation 
18.2.1 Gamma rays from the ground and buildings (terrestrial gamma rays) 
18.2.2 Cosmic rays 
18.3 Health effects of radiation and radon 
18.4 Radon release and migration 
18.5 Factors affecting radon in buildings 
18.6 Geological associations 
18.6.1 Granites 
18.6.2 Black shales 
18.6.3 Phosphatic rocks and ironstones 
18.6.4 Limestones and associated shales and cherts 
18.6.5 Sands and sandstones
18.6.6 Ordovician–Silurian greywackes and associated rocks 
18.6.7 Miscellaneous bedrock units
18.6.8 Superficial deposits 
18.7 Measurement of radon 
18.7.1 Radon testing in the home 
18.7.2 Measurement of radon in soil-gas and solid materials
18.8 Radon hazard mapping and site investigation
18.8.1 Radon hazard mapping based on geology and indoor radon measurements 
18.8.2 Radon hazard mapping based on geology, gamma spectrometry and soil-gas radon data 
18.8.3 Radon site investigation methods 
18.9 Strategies for management: avoidance, prevention and mitigation 
18.9.1 Introduction
18.9.2 Environmental health regulations 
18.9.3 Radon and the building regulations: protecting new buildings
18.9.4 Radon and workplaces 
18.9.5 Radon and the planning system
18.9.6 Remedial measures
Scenarios for future events 
Chapter 19 Methane gas hazard, Steve Wilson, Sarah Mortimer
19.1 The source and chemical properties of methane 
19.2 Guidance and best practice 
19.2.1 Legislative background 
19.3 Developing the conceptual site model
19.3.1 Sources of methane 
19.3.2 Pathways for migration 
19.3.3 Potential receptors to methane 
19.4 Examples of methane impacts 
19.5 Managing risk 
19.5.1 Site investigation for methane
19.5.2 UK contamination practices 
19.5.3 The planning process 
19.5.4 The definition of contaminated land 
19.6 The risk assessment process
19.6.1 Qualitative risk assessment 
19.6.2 Semi-quantitative risk assessment 
19.6.3 NHBC Traffic Lights 
19.6.4 British Standard BS8485: 2015 
19.6.5 Quantitative risk assessment 
19.6.6 Acute situation 
19.7 Mitigating methane risks 
19.8 Summary and conclusions 


Colin J. Serridge

This is probably the first time that such a comprehensive body of research and knowledge on geohazards in the UK has been brought together into one volume. The report achieves its aim and objectives very well, is well-structured and illustrated overall, supported by extensive case history information, and should prove an essential reference document for geohazards in the UK.

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