Preliminary soil-slip susceptibility maps, southwestern California

Open-File Report 2003-17
Prepared in cooperation with the California Geological Survey
By: , and 



This group of maps shows relative susceptibility of hill slopes to the initiation sites of rainfall-triggered soil slip-debris flows in southwestern California. As such, the maps offer a partial answer to one part of the three parts necessary to predict the soil-slip/debris-flow process. A complete prediction of the process would include assessments of “where”, “when”, and “how big”. These maps empirically show part of the “where” of prediction (i.e., relative susceptibility to sites of initiation of the soil slips) but do not attempt to show the extent of run out of the resultant debris flows. Some information pertinent to “when” the process might begin is developed. “When” is determined mostly by dynamic factors such as rainfall rate and duration, for which local variations are not amenable to long-term prediction. “When” information is not provided on the maps but is described later in this narrative. The prediction of “how big” is addressed indirectly by restricting the maps to a single type of landslide process—soil slip-debris flows.

The susceptibility maps were created through an iterative process from two kinds of information. First, locations of sites of past soil slips were obtained from inventory maps of past events. Aerial photographs, taken during six rainy seasons that produced abundant soil slips, were used as the basis for soil slip-debris flow inventory. Second, digital elevation models (DEM) of the areas that were inventoried were used to analyze the spatial characteristics of soil slip locations. These data were supplemented by observations made on the ground. Certain physical attributes of the locations of the soil-slip debris flows were found to be important and others were not. The most important attribute was the mapped bedrock formation at the site of initiation of the soil slip. However, because the soil slips occur in surficial materials overlying the bedrocks units, the bedrock formation can only serve as a surrogate for the susceptibility of the overlying surficial materials.

The maps of susceptibility were created from those physical attributes learned to be important from the inventories. The multiple inventories allow a model to be created from one set of inventory data and evaluated with others. The resultant maps of relative susceptibility represent the best estimate generated from available inventory and DEM data.

Slope and aspect values used in the susceptibility analysis were 10-meter DEM cells at a scale of 1:24,000. For most of the area 10-meter DEMs were available; for those quadrangles that have only 30-meter DEMs, the 30-meter DEMS were resampled to 10-meters to maintain resolution of 10-meter cells. Geologic unit values used in the susceptibility analysis were five-meter cells. For convenience, the soil slip susceptibility values are assembled on 1:100,000-scale bases. Any area of the 1:100,000-scale maps can be transferred to 1:24,000-scale base without any loss of accuracy. Figure 32 is an example of part of a 1:100,000-scale susceptibility map transferred back to a 1:24,000-scale quadrangle.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Preliminary soil-slip susceptibility maps, southwestern California
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2003-17
DOI 10.3133/ofr0317
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Menlo Park, CA
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center
Description Report: 14 p.; Readme; Metadata; 7 EPS files; 7 Plates: 41.0 x 36.0 inches or smaller; 7 Digital Database files
Country United States
State California
Projection Universal Transverse Mercator projection
Scale 100000
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details