Instrumental evidence of normal mode rock slope vibration



A unique field experiment was performed to constrain the seismic response of a large, potentially unstable rock slope in the southern Swiss Alps. Small-aperture seismic arrays were deployed to record ambient vibrations both inside and outside of the mapped instability boundary. The recordings were analysed by means of the high-resolution f–k method, site-to-reference spectral ratios and time–frequency dependent polarization analysis. All three methods indicated that the wavefield within the potentially unstable rock mass is dominated by normal mode motion (standing waves) rather than horizontal propagation of seismic waves. Both fundamental frequency and relative amplification could be recovered from ambient noise data. The observed amplification is strongly directional, and the maximum amplification is oriented perpendicular to open tension cracks mapped at the ground surface. Our results highlight site response characteristics relevant for analysis of earthquake-triggered rock slope failures.