Deriving rainfall thresholds for landsliding at the regional scale: daily and hourly resolutions, normalisation, and antecedent rainfall

Leonarduzzi, Elena; Molnar, Peter

Rainfall thresholds are a simple and widely used method to forecast landslide occurrence. We provide a comprehensive data-driven assessment of the effects of rainfall temporal resolution (hourly versus daily) on rainfall threshold performance in Switzerland, with sensitivity to two other important aspects which appear in many landslide studies – the normalisation of rainfall, which accounts for local climatology, and the inclusion of antecedent rainfall as a proxy of soil water state prior to landsliding. We use an extensive landslide inventory with over 3800 events and several daily and hourly, station, and gridded rainfall datasets to explore different scenarios of rainfall threshold estimation. Our results show that although hourly rainfall did show the best predictive performance for landslides, daily data were not far behind, and the benefits of hourly resolutions can be masked by the higher uncertainties in threshold estimation connected to using short records. We tested the impact of several typical actions of users, like assigning the nearest rain gauge to a landslide location and filling in unknown timing, and we report their effects on predictive performance. We find that localisation of rainfall thresholds through normalisation compensates for the spatial heterogeneity in rainfall regimes and landslide erosion process rates and is a good alternative to regionalisation. On top of normalisation by mean annual precipitation or a high rainfall quantile, we recommend that non-triggering rainfall be included in rainfall threshold estimation if possible. Finally, while antecedent rainfall threshold approaches used at the local scale are not successful at the regional scale, we demonstrate that there is predictive skill in antecedent rain as a proxy of soil wetness state, despite the large heterogeneity of the study domain.

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Leonarduzzi, Elena / Molnar, Peter: Deriving rainfall thresholds for landsliding at the regional scale: daily and hourly resolutions, normalisation, and antecedent rainfall. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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