Landslides and related natural and man-made geological hazards (geohazards) can travel long distances and pose a significant risk around the world to people, property and the environment. The long-term goal of the Geohazards Research Team is to help reduce the losses caused by these events by developing a suite of tools and techniques that improve the ability of engineers and geoscientists to answer the following questions:
1) What is the probability that a landslide or related geohazard of a given size will occur?
2) If it occurs, what is the probability it will reach a certain location of interest (e.g. a community)?
3) If it reaches that location, what is the probability it will cause a certain degree of damage?
4) If the resulting risk is unacceptable, how much can it be reduced with various mitigation options?
In the short term, our work is focused on the following key geohazards: rock avalanches, debris flows, debris floods, tailings dam breaches, shoreline erosion and landslide-generated waves. All of these geohazards present us with unique research challenges. To address these challenges, our research approach integrates the following four methods: 1) field data collection and mapping of past events using state-of-the-art equipment, 2) statistical analysis of the data we collect to look for trends, 3) development and calibration of computer models that can be used to predict how far, how fast and in what direction future events may travel, and 4) laboratory experiments to study the underlying fundamental processes that influence the behaviour of these events.
My research interests and mentoring approach draw significantly from my experience as a consulting engineer, and I maintain strong industry connections. As a result, students, postdoctoral fellows and research assistants in my program gain fundamental and specialized geohazard knowledge and skills that are in high demand in practice. Please click on the "Group" tab above for more information about my current team and our ongoing work. You can also follow our adventures on Instagram: @geohazardsubcvan
NOTE TO PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS/RESEARCHERS: I am not accepting new graduate student, postdoctoral or visiting scholar applications at this time.
Assistant Professor, UBC (2016-present)
Geotechnical Engineer, BGC Engineering (2006-2016)
PhD, Geological Engineering, UBC (2006)
BASc, Civil Engineering, University of Toronto (1998)
Mitchell, A., Allstadt, K. E., George, D., Aaron, J., McDougall, S., Moore, J. and Menounos, B. 2022. Insights on multi-stage rock avalanche behavior from runout modeling constrained by seismic inversions. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth,127: e2021JB023444.
Innis, S., Ghahramani, N., Rana, N.M., McDougall, S., Evans, S.G., Take, W.A. and Kunz, N. 2022. The development and demonstration of a semi-automated regional hazard mapping tool for tailings storage facility failures. Resources, 11(10): 82.
Rana, N., Ghahramani, N., Evans, S.G., Small, A., Skermer, N., McDougall, S. and Take, W.A. 2022. Global magnitude-frequency statistics of the failures and impacts of large water-retention dams and mine tailings impoundments. Earth Science Reviews, 232: 104144.
Aaron, J., McDougall, S., Kowalski, J., Mitchell, A. and Nolde, N. 2022. Probabilistic prediction of rock avalanche runout using a numerical model. Landslides.
Bonneau, D., Hutchinson, J., McDougall, S. DiFrancesco, P.M. and Evans, T. 2022. Debris-flow channel headwater dynamics: Examining channel recharge cycles with terrestrial laser scanning. Frontiers in Earth Science, 10: 883259.
Dias, V.C., Mitchell, A., Carvalho Vieira, B. and McDougall, S. 2022. Differences in the occurrence of debris flows in tropical and temperate environments: field observations and geomorphologic characteristics in Serra do Mar (Brazil) and British Columbia (Canada). Brazilian Journal of Geology, 52(3).
Mitchell, A., Zubrycky, S., McDougall, S., Aaron, J., Jacquemart, M., Hübl, J., Kaitna, R. and Graf, C., 2022. Variable hydrograph inputs for a numerical debris-flow runout model. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 22: 1627-1654.
Ghahramani, N., Chen, H.J., Clohan, D., Liu, S., Llano-Serna, M., Rana, N.M., McDougall, S., Evans, S.G. and Take, W.A. 2022. A benchmarking study of four numerical runout models for the simulation of tailings flows. Science of the Total Environment, 827: 154245.
Strouth, A. and McDougall, S. 2022. Individual risk evaluation for landslides: key details. Landslides, 19: 977-991.
Dias, V.C., McDougall, S. and Carvalho Vieira, B. 2022. Geomorphic analyses of two recent debris flows in Brazil. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 113: 103675.
Walsh, A., McDougall, S., Evans, S.G. and Take, W.A. 2021. Effect of upstream dam geometry on peak discharge during overtopping breach in noncohesive homogeneous embankment dams; implications for tailings dams. Water Resources Research, 57(12): e2020WR029358.
Rana, N.M., Ghahramani, N., Evans, S.G., McDougall, S., Small, A. and Take, W.A. 2021. Catastrophic mass flows resulting from tailings impoundment failures. Engineering Geology, 292: 106262.
Zubrycky, S., Mitchell, A., Strouth, A., McDougall, S., Clague, J.J. and Menounos, B. 2021. Exploring new methods to analyze spatial impact distributions on debris-flow fans using data from southwestern British Columbia. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 46(12): 2395-2413.
Strouth, A. and McDougall, S. 2021. Historical landslide fatalities in British Columbia, Canada: Trends and implications for risk management. Frontiers in Earth Science, 9: 22.
Ghahramani, N., Mitchell, A., Rana, N.M., McDougall, S., Evans, S.G. and Take, W.A. 2020. Tailings-flow runout analysis: examining the applicability of a semi-physical area-volume relationship using a novel database. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 20: 3425-3438.
Strouth, A., McDougall, S. 2020. Societal Risk Evaluation for Landslides: Historical Synthesis and Proposed Tools. Landslides,18(3): 1071-1085.
Mitchell, A., McDougall, S., Aaron, J., Brideau, M.-A. 2020. Rock avalanche-generated sediment mass flows: definitions and hazard. Frontiers in Earth Science, 8: 543937.
Jakob, M., Friele, P., Mark, E., McDougall, S., Friele, P., Lau, C.-A., Bale, S. 2020. Regional Debris-Flow and Debris-Flood Frequency-Magnitude Curves. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 45(12): 2954-2964.
Aaron, J., McDougall, S., Jordan, P. 2020. Dynamic analysis of the 2012 Johnsons Landing landslide at Kootenay Lake, BC: The importance of undrained flow potential. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 57(8): 1172-1182.
Mitchell, A., McDougall, S., Nolde, N., Brideau, M.A., Whittall, J., Aaron, J. 2020. Rock avalanche runout prediction using stochastic analysis of a regional dataset. Landslides. 17: 777-792.
Deijns A, Bevington A, van Zadelhoff F, de Jong S, Geertsema M, McDougall S. 2020. Semi-automated detection of landslide timing using harmonic modelling of satellite imagery, Buckinghorse River, Canada. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation. 84: 101943.
Aaron J, McDougall S. 2019. Rock avalanche mobility: The role of path material. Engineering Geology. 257: 105126.
Aaron J, McDougall S, Nolde N. 2019. Two methodologies to calibrate landslide runout models. Landslides. 16(5): 907-920.
Si P, Aaron J, McDougall S, Lu J, Yu X, Roberts NJ, Clague, JJ. 2018. A non-hydrostatic model for the numerical study of landslide-generated waves. Landslides. 15:711-726.
Whittall J, McDougall S, Eberhardt E. 2017. A risk-based methodology for establishing landslide exclusion zones in operating open pit mines. International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences. 100:100-107.
Aaron J, McDougall S, Moore JR, Coe JA, Hungr O. 2017. The role of initial coherence and path materials in the dynamics of three rock avalanche case histories. Geoenvironmental Disasters. 4:5.
Miller GS, W. Take A, Mulligan RP, McDougall S. 2017. Tsunamis generated by long and thin granular landslides in a large flume. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 122:653-668.
McDougall S. 2017. 2014 Canadian Geotechnical Colloquium: Landslide runout analysis—current practice and challenges. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 54:605-620.
Whittall J, Eberhardt E, McDougall S. 2016. Runout analysis and mobility observations for large open pit slope failures. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 54:373-391.
Jakob M, McDougall S, Weatherly H, Ripley N. 2013. Debris-flow simulations on Cheekye river, British Columbia. Landslides. 10:685-699.
Brideau M-A, McDougall S, Stead D, Evans SG, Couture R, Turner K. 2012. Three-dimensional distinct element modelling and dynamic runout analysis of a landslide in gneissic rock, British Columbia, Canada. Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment. 71:467-486.
Hungr O, McDougall S. 2009. Two numerical models for landslide dynamic analysis. Computers & Geosciences. 35:978-992.
Evans SG, Tutubalina OV, Drobyshev VN, Chernomorets SS, McDougall S, Petrakov DA, Hungr O. 2009. Catastrophic detachment and high-velocity long-runout flow of Kolka Glacier, Caucasus Mountains, Russia in 2002. Geomorphology. 105:314-321.
Willenberg H, Eberhardt E, Loew S, McDougall S, Hungr O. 2009. Hazard assessment and runout analysis for an unstable rock slope above an industrial site in the Riviera valley, Switzerland. Landslides. 6:111-119.
Hungr O, McDougall S, Wise M, Cullen M. 2008. Magnitude–frequency relationships of debris flows and debris avalanches in relation to slope relief. Geomorphology. 96:355-365.
McDougall S, Boultbee N, Hungr O, Stead D, Schwab JW. 2006. The Zymoetz River landslide, British Columbia, Canada: description and dynamic analysis of a rock slide–debris flow. Landslides. 3:195.
McDougall S, Hungr O. 2005. Dynamic modelling of entrainment in rapid landslides. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 42:1437-1448.
McDougall S, Hungr O. 2004. A model for the analysis of rapid landslide motion across three-dimensional terrain. Canadian Geotechnical Journal. 41:1084-1097.