Rockfall rebound: comparison of detailed field experiments and alternative modelling approaches


Franck Bourrier, Cemagref, UR EMGR, 2 rue de la papeterie, BP 76, Saint Martin d'Heres, FR 38 402 France. E-mail:


The accuracy of rockfall trajectory simulations mainly rests on the calculation of the rebound of fragments following their impact on the slope. This paper is dedicated to the comparative analysis of two rebound modelling approaches currently used in rockfall simulation using field experiments of single rebounds. The two approaches consist in either modelling the rock as a single material point (lumped mass approach) or in explicitly accounting for the fragment shape (rigid body approach). A lumped mass model accounting for the coupling between translational and rotational velocities and introducing a slope perturbation angle was used. A rigid body approach modelling the rocks as rigid locally deformable (in the vicinity of the contact surface) assemblies of spheres was chosen.

The comparative analysis of the rebound models shows that both of them are efficient with only a few parameters. The main limitation of each approach are the calibration of the value of the slope perturbation (‘roughness’) angle, for the lumped mass approach, and the estimation of the rock length and height from field geological and historical analyses, for the rigid body approach. Finally, both rebound models require being improved in a pragmatic manner to better predict the rotational velocities distribution. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.