Developing hydro-meteorological thresholds for shallow landslide initiation and early warning

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Consistent relations between shallow landslide initiation and associated rainfall characteristics remain difficult to identify, due largely to the complex hydrological and geological processes causing slopes to be predisposed to failure and those processes that subsequently trigger failures. Considering the importance of hillslope hydrology for rainfall-induced landsliding, we develop and test a method for identifying hybrid hydro-meteorological thresholds to assess landslide initiation potential. We outline a series of steps for using a landslide inventory in combination with triggering rainfall and antecedent wetness to identify empirical thresholds that can inform landslide early warning systems. The method is semi-automated but remains flexible enough to allow threshold developers to consider data inputs and various performance metrics with different priorities for balancing failed versus false alarms. We demonstrate the utility of our approach for two monitoring sites near Seattle, Washington and in Portland, Oregon, USA, to develop daily bilinear thresholds within a two-dimensional parameter space, which rely on accurate 24 h forecasts, measured recent rainfall and in situ soil saturation. Although there were no prior landslide thresholds for Portland, our new hybrid threshold for the Seattle area outperforms established rainfall-only thresholds for the same region. Introducing subsurface hydrologic monitoring into landslide initiation thresholds has the potential to greatly improve early warning capabilities and help reduce losses.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Developing hydro-meteorological thresholds for shallow landslide initiation and early warning
Series title Water
DOI 10.3390/w10091274
Volume 10
Issue 9
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher MDPI
Contributing office(s) Geologic Hazards Science Center
Description Article 1274; 19 p.
First page 1
Last page 19
Country United States
State Oregon, Washington