Modeling landslide failure surfaces by polynomial surface fitting

Chenxiao Tang*, Jing Tang, C.J. van Westen, Jiannan Han, O.C. Mavrouli, Chuan Tang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Estimating landslide volume based on pre- and post-event elevation models without detailed field investigations is still a major challenge due to hidden failure surfaces. A MATLAB model named “SLIPFITTER” was developed to model failure surfaces using polynomial surface to fit the geometry of exposed scarps extracted from Digital Elevation Models (DEMs). To test our model, a series of analog experiments were designed to acquire data for model testing in a controlled environment. The test indicates the only option to simulate failure surfaces with only remotely sensed data, is to assume that the failure surface was outcropping at the toe of slopes. It is not possible to model landslides that do not reach the bottom of slopes without survey data. Using the assumption, the model was tested on real landslides, showing its capability of modeling for multiple landslides over an area in a single simulation, and the possibility to predict potential failure surfaces from a reported crack. The major limitations of the model include the high requirement for the input DEM quality, the incapability to consider underlying bedrock structures, and the difficulty of simulating landslides with complex movements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107358
Number of pages13
Early online date25 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Failure surface
  • Landslide
  • Landslide volume estimation
  • Slipfitter
  • 22/2 OA procedure


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