How much does the rainfall temporal resolution affect rainfall thresholds for landslide triggering?

Stefano Luigi Gariano, Massimo Melillo, Silvia Peruccacci, Maria Teresa Brunetti, 2020, How much does the rainfall temporal resolution affect rainfall thresholds for landslide triggering?, Natural hazards (Dordr., Online) 100 (2020): 16–655. doi_10.1007/s11069-019-03830-x,
URL: http://www.cnr.it/prodotto/i/414664

In many areas of the world, the prediction of rainfall-induced landslides is usually carried out by means of empirical rainfall thresholds. Their definition is complicated by several issues, among which are the evaluation and quantification of diverse uncertainties resulting from data and methods. Threshold effectiveness and reliability strongly depend on the quality and quantity of rainfall measurements and landslide information used as input. In this work, the influence of the temporal resolution of rainfall measurements on the calculation of landslide-triggering rainfall thresholds is evaluated and discussed. For the purpose, hourly rainfall measurements collected by 172 rain gauges and geographical and temporal information on the occurrence of 561 rainfall-induced landslides in Liguria region (northern Italy) in the period 2004-2014 are used. To assess the impact of different temporal resolutions on the thresholds, rainfall measurements are clustered in increasing bins of 1, 3, 6, 12 and 24 h. A comprehensive tool is applied to each dataset to automatically reconstruct the rainfall conditions responsible for the failures and to calculate frequentist cumulated event rainfall-rainfall duration (ED) thresholds. Then, using a quantitative procedure, the calculated ED thresholds are validated. The main finding of the work is that the use of rainfall measurements with different temporal resolutions results in considerable variations of the shape and the validity range of the thresholds. Decreasing the rainfall temporal resolution, thresholds with smaller intercepts, higher slopes, shorter ranges of validity and higher uncertainties are obtained. On the other hand, it seems that the rainfall temporal resolution does not influence the validation procedure and the threshold performance indicators. Overall, the use of rainfall data with coarse temporal resolution causes a systematic underestimation of thresholds at short durations, resulting in relevant drawbacks (e.g. false alarms) if the thresholds are implemented in operational systems for landslide prediction.

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