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Volume 18, issue 1 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 31-39, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Invited perspectives 04 Jan 2018

Invited perspectives | 04 Jan 2018

Invited perspectives: Hydrological perspectives on precipitation intensity-duration thresholds for landslide initiation: proposing hydro-meteorological thresholds

Thom Bogaard1 and Roberto Greco2 Thom Bogaard and Roberto Greco
  • 1Water Resources Section, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands
  • 2Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile Design Edilizia e Ambiente, Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, Aversa (CE), Italy

Abstract. Many shallow landslides and debris flows are precipitation initiated. Therefore, regional landslide hazard assessment is often based on empirically derived precipitation intensity-duration (ID) thresholds and landslide inventories. Generally, two features of precipitation events are plotted and labeled with (shallow) landslide occurrence or non-occurrence. Hereafter, a separation line or zone is drawn, mostly in logarithmic space. The practical background of ID is that often only meteorological information is available when analyzing (non-)occurrence of shallow landslides and, at the same time, it could be that precipitation information is a good proxy for both meteorological trigger and hydrological cause. Although applied in many case studies, this approach suffers from many false positives as well as limited physical process understanding. Some first steps towards a more hydrologically based approach have been proposed in the past, but these efforts received limited follow-up.
Therefore, the objective of our paper is to (a) critically analyze the concept of precipitation ID thresholds for shallow landslides and debris flows from a hydro-meteorological point of view and (b) propose a trigger–cause conceptual framework for lumped regional hydro-meteorological hazard assessment based on published examples and associated discussion. We discuss the ID thresholds in relation to return periods of precipitation, soil physics, and slope and catchment water balance. With this paper, we aim to contribute to the development of a stronger conceptual model for regional landslide hazard assessment based on physical process understanding and empirical data.

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Short summary
The vast majority of shallow landslides and debris flows are precipitation initiated and predicted using historical landslides plotted versus observed precipitation information. However, this approach has severe limitations. This is partly due to the fact that it is not precipitation that initiates a landslide or debris flow but rather the hydrological dynamics in the soil and slope. We propose to include hydrological information in the regional hydro-meteorological hazard assessment.
The vast majority of shallow landslides and debris flows are precipitation initiated and...