Remote sensing applied to slope stability in mountainous roads in Iran

  • Hassan Taherkia

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The Alborz Mountain range separates the northern part of Iran from the southern part. It also isolates a narrow coastal strip to the south of the Caspian Sea from the Central Iran plateau.
Communication between the south and north until the 1950's was via two roads and one rail link. In 1963 work was completed on a major access road via the Haraz Valley (the most physically hostile area in the region). From the beginning the road was plagued by accidents resulting from unstable slopes on either side of the valley. Heavy casualties persuaded the government to undertake major
engineering works to eliminate ''black spots" and make the road safe. However, despite substantial and prolonged expenditure the problems were not solved and casualties increased steadily due to the increase in traffic using the road.
Another road was built to bypass the Haraz road and opened to traffic in 1983. But closure of the Haraz road was still impossible because of the growth of settlements along the route and the need for access to other installations such as the Lar Dam.
The aim of this research was to explore the possibility of applying Landsat MSS imagery to locating black spots along the road and the instability problems. Landsat data had not previously been applied to highway engineering problems in the study area. Aerial photographs are better in general than satellite images for detailed mapping, but Landsat images are superior for reconnaissance and
adequate for mapping at the 1 :250,000 scale. The broad overview and lack of distortion in the Landsat imagery make the images ideal for structural interpretation.
The results of Landsat digital image analysis showed that certain rock types and structural features can be delineated and mapped. The most unstable areas comprising steep slopes, free of vegetation cover can be identified using image processing techniques. Structural lineaments revealed from the image analysis led to improved results (delineation of unstable features). Damavand Quaternary volcanics were found to be the dominant rock type along a 40 km stretch of the
road. These rock types are inherently unstable and partly responsible for the difficulties along the road.
For more detailed geological and morphological interpretation a sample of small subscenes was selected and analysed. A special developed image analysis package was designed at Aston for use on a non specialized computing system. Using this package a new and unique method for image classification was developed, allowing accurate delineation of the critical features of the study area.
Date of AwardOct 1985
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorW.G. Collins (Supervisor) & J.A. Morton (Supervisor)


  • slope stability
  • Iran
  • remote sensing

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