A susceptibility-based rainfall threshold approach for landslide occurrence
Rainfall threshold determination is a pressing issue in the landslide scientific community. While major improvements have been made towards more reproducible techniques for the identification of triggering conditions for landsliding, the now well-established rainfall intensity or event-duration thresholds for landsliding suffer from several limitations. Here, we propose a new approach of the frequentist method for threshold definition based on satellite-derived antecedent rainfall estimates directly coupled with landslide susceptibility data. Adopting a bootstrap statistical technique for the identification of threshold uncertainties at different exceedance probability levels, it results in thresholds expressed as AR = (α±Δα)⋅S(β±Δβ), where AR is antecedent rainfall (mm), S is landslide susceptibility, α and β are scaling parameters, and Δα and Δβ are their uncertainties. The main improvements of this approach consist in (1) using spatially continuous satellite rainfall data, (2) giving equal weight to rainfall characteristics and ground susceptibility factors in the definition of spatially varying rainfall thresholds, (3) proposing an exponential antecedent rainfall function that involves past daily rainfall in the exponent to account for the different lasting effect of large versus small rainfall, (4) quantitatively exploiting the lower parts of the cloud of data points, most meaningful for threshold estimation, and (5) merging the uncertainty on landslide date with the fit uncertainty in a single error estimation. We apply our approach in the western branch of the East African Rift based on landslides that occurred between 2001 and 2018, satellite rainfall estimates from the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA 3B42 RT), and the continental-scale map of landslide susceptibility of Broeckx et al. (2018) and provide the first regional rainfall thresholds for landsliding in tropical Africa.