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Plea for greater understanding of geomorphology


ENGINEERS must have a fuller understanding of geomorphological processes to be able to apply them effectively to construction problems, according to Denys Brunsden, emeritus professor of geomorphology at King's College London's department of geography.

Brunsden is presenting this year's Glossop Lecture for the Engineering Group of the Geological Society, on 6 November at the Royal Institution in London.

His lecture, Geomorphological roulette for engineers and planners: some insights into an old game, will review the development of geomorphology over the last 30 years and discuss ways the discipline could be used in the future by engineers and planners.

Brunsden says while civil engineers appreciate that projects should be based on a clear knowledge of geomorphology, site investigations often restrict work to basic mapping and identification of features rather than a true understanding of space and time.

He suggests future work should be based on a full understanding of the conceptual basis for modern geomorphology.

His particular criticisms are that too little attention is paid to the residual effects of landform change, the identification of inherited material conditions, the frequency and magnitude of processes and the nature of risk.

There are many dangers because the natural systems are involved and complex, he says. They occur in many stability states, in all climatic regimes and affect all stages of a project.

Using the analogy of a game of roulette, each combination of systems, specifications and stability states that form the setting of a job can be allocated to a slot in the roulette wheel, Brunsden says.

Spinning the wheel and seeing where the ball lands is the 'gamble' facing the planner and engineer each time a job is started.

In his lecture, Brunsden will argue for a deeper investigation of the dynamic aspects of geomorphology and the evolving patterns of space and time. He also insists that work will be most effective as part of a 'geo-team' that remains involved with the job to ensure that the recommendations are carried through to the design, construction and maintenance stages. A description of the Lyme Regis Environmental Improvements Scheme in west Dorset, where such a team is in place, will be used to illustrate the concept.

The lecture event will include presentation of this year's Glossop Award paper, Engineering geological investigation and design of tank T100, Dabhol Ing Power project, India, by Chris Martin of Arup Geotechnics.

l For more information contact the Engineering Group chairman Kevin Privett, tel 029 2023 5566; email: kprivett@srk. co. uk

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