Articles | Volume 14, issue 9
Research article
29 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 29 Sep 2014

Analysing the relationship between rainfalls and landslides to define a mosaic of triggering thresholds for regional-scale warning systems

S. Segoni, A. Rosi, G. Rossi, F. Catani, and N. Casagli

Abstract. We propose an original approach to develop rainfall thresholds to be used in civil protection warning systems for the occurrence of landslides at regional scale (i.e. tens of thousands of kilometres), and we apply it to Tuscany, Italy (23 000 km2).

Purpose-developed software is used to define statistical intensity–duration rainfall thresholds by means of an automated and standardized analysis of rainfall data. The automation and standardization of the analysis brings several advantages that in turn have a positive impact on the applicability of the thresholds to operational warning systems. Moreover, the possibility of defining a threshold in very short times compared to traditional analyses allowed us to subdivide the study area into several alert zones to be analysed independently, with the aim of setting up a specific threshold for each of them. As a consequence, a mosaic of several local rainfall thresholds is set up in place of a single regional threshold. Even if pertaining to the same region, the local thresholds vary substantially and can have very different equations. We subsequently analysed how the physical features of the test area influence the parameters and the equations of the local thresholds, and found that some threshold parameters can be put in relation with the prevailing lithology. In addition, we investigated the possible relations between effectiveness of the threshold and number of landslides used for the calibration.

A validation procedure and a quantitative comparison with some literature thresholds showed that the performance of a threshold can be increased if the areal extent of its test area is reduced, as long as a statistically significant landslide sample is present. In particular, we demonstrated that the effectiveness of a warning system can be significantly enhanced if a mosaic of site-specific thresholds is used instead of a single regional threshold.

Final-revised paper