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GE481 Engineering Geology and Early Warning

Course description for academic year 2021/2022

Contents and structure

  • Engineering classification of rock masses with emphasis on discontinuities such as foliation, faults and fractures and their shear strengths, and introduction into the Q-system for classification of rock masses.
  • Rock stresses in mountain slopes and fractures, tunnels, underground excavations and road cuts.
  • Introduction to different types of slope instabilities in rocks, such as plane failure, wedge failure, toppling, circular failure or complex failure patterns.
  • Introduction to data collection and methods for stability analysis of rock slopes, calculation of the factor of safety for planar gliding using conventional methods and computer programs. One day of field work along a road section for collection of own data.
  • Stabilization and protection measures for unstable rock slopes.


  • Engineering properties of soils.
  • Soil mechanics; total stress, pore pressure and effectiv stress.
  • Soil strength and slope stability. 
  • Analyze and calculate the factor of safety for translational slides and rotational slides in soils - by hand and with computer programs.


The first or second week of June is obligatory and includes lectures, a field visit and exercises. One of the days in that week we will walk up to the unstable mountain Joasetebergi, between Aurland and Flåm, supervised by geologist from NVE, and explore the geology and monitoring instruments. The students should prepare and give a presentation on Friday; either about an unstable object in Norway and suggest a monitoring system for that object, or interpret a set of data collected from some of the instruments operated at Joasetebergi or some other objects monitored by NVE in Norway. 

Learning Outcome

The student:

  • understands the concept of factor of safety for rock- and soil slopes.
  • has an overview of different methods and instruments used to monitor unstable slopes.

The student is able to:

  • conduct an engineering classification of soils and rocks.
  • analyze slope stability and calculate the factor of safety for unstable rock- and soil slopes using hand computations, spread sheets software and computer programs.

The student is able to:

  • carry out a sensitivity analysis for a particular slope and determine which variables affect the slope stability most when subject to changes.
  • design and plan a monitoring program for an unstable slope.

Entry requirements


Recommended previous knowledge

GE406: Introduction to Geology

GE407: Introduction to Applied Geophysics

GE408: Mineralogy and Petrography

GE414: Structural Geology and Tectonics

FY400: Introduction to Physics

Teaching methods

Lectures, practicals and fieldtrip/fieldwork (two days).

Compulsory learning activities

Approved assignments, participate on the field trips, prepare and give a presentation. 


Written examination under supervision, 4 hours.

Grading A-F.

Examination support material

Ruler, calculator.

More about examination support material