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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 11 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 3359-3375, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 14 Nov 2012

Research article | 14 Nov 2012

Evaluation of potential meteorological triggers of large landslides in sensitive glaciomarine clay, eastern Canada

D. Gauthier and D. J. Hutchinson D. Gauthier and D. J. Hutchinson
  • Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, Queen's University 36 Union St., Kingston, ON, K7L 1N6, Canada

Abstract. Heavy rains spread over some interval preceding large landslides in sensitive glaciomarine clay in eastern Canada are often noted as a triggering or causative factor in case studies or research reports for individual landslides, although the quantity or duration of the triggering rain event has never been characterized adequately. We selected five large landslide events that occurred in the glaciomarine clay in eastern Canada, and calculated cumulative antecedent precipitation for intervals ranging between one and 365 days preceding each event. We also calculated the antecedent precipitation values for every other day in the record, and computed the relative rank of the landslide day within the complete record. Our results show that several intervals for each landslide event are highly ranked – including those preceding a presumably earthquake-triggered landslide – but overall the rankings were highly variable, ranging between 99% and 6%. The set of highest-ranking intervals are unique for each event, including both short and long-term cumulative precipitation. All of the landslides occurred in the spring months, and the release of sequestered surface and ground water during the spring ground thaw may be related to the timing of the large landslides, so that the evolution of ground frost in the early winter may be of interest for landslide prediction. We found no simple precipitation threshold for triggering large landslides in sensitive glaciomarine clay in eastern Canada, suggesting that some complex temporal and spatial combination of pre-conditions, external energy (e.g. earthquakes), precipitation triggers and other factors such as ground frost formation and thaw are required to trigger a landslide.

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