23 Aug 2022
23 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Impact of topography on in-situ soil wetness measurements for regional landslide early warning – a case study from the Swiss Alpine Foreland

Adrian Wicki1, Peter Lehmann2, Christian Hauck3, and Manfred Stähli1 Adrian Wicki et al.
  • 1Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 2ETH Zurich, Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
  • 3University of Fribourg, Department of Geosciences, Chemin du Musée 4, 1700 Fribourg, Switzerland

Abstract. Recent studies have demonstrated the potential of in-situ soil wetness measurements to predict regional shallow landslides. Increasing availability of monitoring data from sensor networks provides valuable information for developing future regional landslide early warning systems (LEWSs), however, most existing monitoring sites are located on flat terrain. The question arises, if the representativeness for regional landslide activity would improve if sensors were installed on a landslide-prone hillslope? To address this, two soil wetness monitoring stations were installed at close proximity on a steep slope and on a flat location in the Napf region (Northern Alpine Foreland of Switzerland), and measurements were conducted over a period of 3 years. As both sites inhibit similar lithological, vegetation and precipitation characteristics, soil hydrological differences can be attributed to the impact of topography and hydrogeology. At the sloped site, conditions were generally wetter and less variable in time, and evidence was found for temporary lateral water transport along the slope. These differences were systematic and could be reduced by considering relative soil moisture changes. The application of a statistical landslide forecast model showed that both sites were equally able to distinguish critical from non-critical conditions for landslide triggering, which demonstrates the value of existing monitoring sites in flat areas for the application in LEWSs.

Adrian Wicki et al.

Status: open (until 26 Oct 2022)

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Adrian Wicki et al.

Adrian Wicki et al.


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Short summary
Soil wetness measurements are used for shallow landslide prediction, however existing sites are often located in flat terrain. Here, we assessed the ability of monitoring sites at flat locations to detect critically saturated conditions, compared to if it was situated at a landslide-prone location. We found that differences exist, but that both sites could equally well distinguish critical from non-critical conditions for shallow landslide triggering if relative changes are considered.