Monitoring subsurface hydrologic response for precipitation-induced shallow landsliding in the San Francisco Bay area, California, USA

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Intense winter storms in the San Francisco Bay area (SFBA) of California, USA often trigger shallow landslides. Some of these landslides mobilize into potentially hazardous debris flows. A growing body of research indicates that rainfall intensity-duration thresholds are insufficient for accurate prediction of landslide occurrence. In response, we have begun long-term monitoring of the hydrologic response of land-slide-prone hillslopes to rainfall in several areas of the SFBA. Each monitoring site is equipped with sensors for measuring soil moisture content and piezometric pressure at several soil depths along with a rain gauge connected to a cell phone or satellite telemetered data logger. The data are transmitted in near-real-time, providing the ability to monitor hydrologic conditions before, during, and after storms. Results are guiding the establishment of both antecedent and storm-specific rainfall and moisture content thresholds which must be achieved before landslide-causative positive pore water pressures are generated. Although widespread shallow landsliding has not yet occurred since the deployment of the monitoring sites, several isolated land-slides have been observed in the area of monitoring. The landslides occurred during a period when positive pore water pressures were measured as a result of intense rainfall that followed higher-than-average season precipitation totals. Continued monitoring and analysis will further guide the establishment of more general-ized thresholds for different regions of the SFBA and contribute to the development and calibration of physi-cally-based predictive models.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Monitoring subsurface hydrologic response for precipitation-induced shallow landsliding in the San Francisco Bay area, California, USA
Year Published 2012
Language English
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 7 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Landslides and engineered slopes: Protecting society through improved understanding, Proceedings of the 11th International Symposium on Landslides
First page 1249
Last page 1255
Conference Title 11th International Symposium on Landslides
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