Rockfall or rock-fall refers to quantities of rock
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 falling freely from a cliff
In geography and geology, a cliff is a significant vertical, or near vertical, rock exposure. Cliffs are formed as erosion landforms due to the processes of erosion and weathering that produce them. Cliffs are common on coasts, in mountainous areas, escarpments and along rivers. Cliffs are usually...

 face. A rockfall is a fragment of rock (a block) detached by sliding, toppling, or falling, that falls along a vertical or sub-vertical cliff, proceeds down slope by bouncing and flying along ballistic trajectories or by rolling on talus or debris slopes,” (Varnes, 1978). Alternatively, a "rockfall is the natural downward motion of a detached block or series of blocks with a small volume involving free falling, bouncing, rolling, and sliding".

Unfavourable geology and climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

 are the principal causal mechanisms of rockfall, factors that include intact condition of the rock mass, discontinuities within the rockmass, weathering
Weathering is the breaking down of rocks, soils and minerals as well as artificial materials through contact with the Earth's atmosphere, biota and waters...

 susceptibility, ground and surface water, freeze-thaw, root-wedging, and external stresses. The pieces of rock collect at the bottom creating a talus or scree
Scree, also called talus, is a term given to an accumulation of broken rock fragments at the base of crags, mountain cliffs, or valley shoulders. Landforms associated with these materials are sometimes called scree slopes or talus piles...

. Rocks falling from the cliff may dislodge other rocks and serve to create another mass wasting
Mass wasting
Mass wasting, also known as slope movement or mass movement, is the geomorphic process by which soil, regolith, and rock move downslope under the force of gravity. Types of mass wasting include creep, slides, flows, topples, and falls, each with its own characteristic features, and taking place...

 process, for example an avalanche
An avalanche is a sudden rapid flow of snow down a slope, occurring when either natural triggers or human activity causes a critical escalating transition from the slow equilibrium evolution of the snow pack. Typically occurring in mountainous terrain, an avalanche can mix air and water with the...


Typically, rockfall events are mitigated in one of two ways: either by passive mitigation or active mitigation. Passive mitigation is where only the effects of the rockfall event are mitigated and are generally employed in the deposition or run-out zones, such as through the use of drape nets, rockfall catchment fences, diversion dams, etc. The rockfall still takes place but an attempt is made to control the outcome. In contrast, active mitigation is carried out in the initiation zone and prevents the rockfall event from ever occurring. Some examples of these measures are rock bolting, slope retention systems, shotcrete, etc. Other active measures might be by changing the geographic or climatic characteristics in the initiation zone, e.g. altering slope geometry, dewatering the slope, revegetation, etc.

The mode of failure differs from that of a rockslide
A rockslide is a type of landslide caused by rock failure in which part of the plane of failure passes through intact rock and where material collapses en masse and not in individual blocks.The mode of failure is different from that of a rock-fall....


Design guides of passive measures have been proposed by Ritchie (1963), Pierson et al. (2001) and Pantelidis (2010).
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