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Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309

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j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / g e o m o r p h

Application of radar data to modeling rainfall-induced landslides

Shou-Hao Chiang a, Kang-Tsung Chang b,
Department of Geography, National Taiwan University, Taipei 106, Taiwan
Kainan University, Taoyuan County 33857, Taiwan


Article history: Many shallow landslides are triggered by heavy rainfall. Previous studies of landslide modeling have been
Received 12 February 2008 hampered by the scarcity of rain gauges to adequately depict the spatial variability of rainfall conditions
Received in revised form 21 June 2008 triggering landslides. This study simulates the efciency of the critical rainfall model for landslide prediction
Accepted 24 June 2008
in a mountainous watershed with inputs of different rainfall estimates associated with a typhoon (tropical
Available online 3 July 2008
cyclone) event. Doppler radar data at a spatial resolution of 1 km and measurements from six gauging
stations provide the sources for rainfall estimates. Inverse distance weighted, splines, and kriging are the
Rainfall-induced landslide interpolation methods for gauged rainfall estimates. A comparison of the simulation outputs shows that the
Critical rainfall model using radar rainfall estimates has a better performance than those using gauged rainfall estimates in
Radar data predicting both landslides and stable areas. In light of the results, this paper also discusses the validity of the
Gauged data critical rainfall model for landslides in relation to its rainfall input and steady-state hydrological assumption.
Typhoon 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction In recent years, rainfall data derived from radar reectivity imagery
have been used for predicting debris ows, ash oods, and landslides
Many landslides are triggered by heavy rainfall during storm events. (Wieczorek et al., 2003; Morrissey et al., 2004; Chang et al., 2008;
Previous researchers working with process-based models for landslides Norbiato et al., 2007). Radar rainfall estimates from the NEXRAD (next
have concentrated on deriving minimum steady-state rainfall (Mon-
tgomery and Dietrich, 1994; Montgomery et al., 1998; Borga et al., 1998,
2002a; Claessens et al., 2007a,b) and factor of safety (FS) (Dietrich et al., Table 1
Number of rain gauges and study areas for selected rainfall-induced landslide studies
1995; Pack et al.,1998; Vanacker et al., 2003) to assess landslide hazards.
The minimum steady-state threshold is a rainfall rate (mm day 1) Reference Number of Area Study area
critical to induce slope failures. FS is an index used to determine the rain gauges (km2)
slope stability of a land unit (grid cell or slope unit). Both approaches use Chang et al. (2008) 19 752 Shihmen watershed, northern
rainfall data, along with topographic and soil parameters, to identify Taiwan
Avanzi et al. (2004) 14 150 Apuan Alps, northwestern
potential landslide areas. Ideally, predicted landslides should reect Tuscany, Italy
local topographic and soil characteristics as well as triggering rainfall Corominas and Moya (1999) 8 25 Lobregat River basin, eastern
conditions such as rainfall intensity and duration (Crosta, 1998). Pyrenees, Spain
While researchers are aware of the importance of the spatial Cannon et al. (2008) 7 49 Glenwood Springs, southern
Colorado, USA
variability of rainfall elds, they often overlook it in landslide modeling
Guzzetti et al. (2004) 7 5418 Imperia Province, western
primarily because of the scarcity of rain gauges, especially in Liguria, Italy
mountainous areas (Jakob and Weatherly, 2003; Guzzetti et al., 2004). Gabet et al. (2004) 6 136 Khudi river catchment,
A quick review of the literature reveals that past landslide studies have Himalayas of Nepal
used rain gauge networks ranging from seven for a 5418 km2 region to Bathurst et al. (2006) 5 505 Lobregat basin, Pyrenees, Spain
Dai and Lee (2003) 5 13 Tung Chung region of Lantau
two for a 2 km2 watershed (Table 1). Researchers have coped with
Island, Hong Kong
insufcient rain gauges by using reference gauges (e.g., Aleotti, 2004), Jakob and Weatherly (2003) 2 2 Mackay Creek, coastal British
Thiessen polygons (e.g., Godt et al., 2006), or spatial interpolation (e.g., Columbia, Canada
Guzzetti et al., 2004). Nevertheless, results have been unsatisfactory in Lin et al. (2008) 2 367 Chenyoulan River watershed,
central Taiwan
most cases (Casadei et al., 2003).
Schwab et al. (2008) 1 324 Waldemme drainage basin,
Entlebuch, central Swiss Alps
Vanacker et al. (2003) 1 2.5 Gordeleg drainage basin,
southern Ecuadorian Andes
Corresponding author. Tel.: +886 33412500x1021; fax: +886 33413252.
E-mail address: chang@uidaho.edu (K.-T. Chang). References are sorted by the number of rain gauges.

0169-555X/$ see front matter 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
300 S.-H. Chiang, K.-T. Chang / Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309

generation radar) program in the USA have a spatial resolution of 4 km. Rainfall inputs to the model include rainfall estimates from the radar
Some other radar systems have a spatial resolution of 1 km (Chang et al., system in Taiwan and those interpolated from available gauged
2008; Norbiato et al., 2007). It has been suggested that in areas such as measurements using inverse distance weighted (IDW), splines, and
mountainous catchments, where rain gauges are sparsely distributed, kriging. With each rainfall input, the model generates a set of predicted
radar data can better capture the spatial variation of rainfall elds than landslides and stable areas. The study then compares the predicted
gauged data (Yang et al., 2004; Segond et al., 2007). landslides with the observed ones to evaluate the inuence of the
Taiwan has over 400 rain gauge stations of which most are located rainfall input on the model performance. The assumption is that the
in the lowland areas on the west side of the Central Mountain Range. model with the radar rainfall input will have a better performance due to
In 2002, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) and the Water Resource its better spatial resolution in differentiating the rainfall eld. This paper
Agency of Taiwan, jointly with the National Severe Storm Laboratory also discusses the critical rainfall model for landslides in relation to its
of the United States, started to co-develop the QPESUMS (quantitative rainfall input and steady-state hydrological assumption.
precipitation estimation and segregation using multiple sensors) to
improve Taiwan's capacity to monitor, analyze, and forecast severe 2. Regional setting
meteorological phenomena such as typhoons (Chen et al., 2007).
Making use of data collected from a network of four Doppler radars, The study area is the 120 km2 Baichi watershed in northern Taiwan
the system estimates rainfall in terms of its depth and spatial (Fig. 1). It is located on the west side of the Central Mountain Range in the
distribution. It records base (lowest elevations without blockages) Eo-Oligocene argillite-slate belt. This watershed represents a typical
reectivity with a spatial resolution of 0.0125 in both longitude and mountainous watershed in Taiwan that regularly experiences landslides
latitude and a temporal resolution of 10 min. The high spatial and triggered by typhoons. Three major geologic formations in the Baichi
temporal resolutions of radar data are desirable for landslide studies. watershed are the Aoti formation with shale and argillite, the Tatungshan
This paper aims to test the effect of rainfall inputs on the performance formation with slate and phyllite, and the Kanko formation with shale,
of a critical rainfall model for shallow landslides. The model is an innite slate and argillite. Bedrocks are heavily fractured by joints from folding and
slope stability model combined with a steady-state hydrologic model. faulting. Soil depths range from 0.8 to 1.3 m. Shallow soils are dominated

Fig. 1. Location and the lithological settings of the Baichi watershed.

S.-H. Chiang, K.-T. Chang / Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309 301

by frequent erosion on steep slopes while soils with a thicker layer occupy The typhoon affected Taiwan, especially the northern half, for three days.
lower slopes and valleys. During its peak on August 24, Typhoon Aere had a 200-km storm radius
Elevations in the watershed range from 830 m a.s.l. in the northwest to and a low pressure reading of 955 hPa, packing winds of 140 km h 1 and
3320 m in the southeast, with generally rugged topography. About 90% of gusts to 175 km h 1. The passage of the typhoon brought 1604 mm of
the study area is forested: natural needle- and broad-leaf mix accounts for rainfall to the study area. Maximum 1-h rainfall intensity was estimated at
33%, natural broad-leaf forest 33%, natural needle-leaf forest 15%, and 86.5 mm h 1, maximum 6-h intensity at 75.9 mm h 1, and maximum 24-h
plantation forest 10%. Areas in the remaining 10% are cultivated elds and intensity at 51.7 mm h 1 (Chang et al., 2008). The antecedent moisture
built-up areas located in lower elevations of the northern part of the condition of the study area was inuenced by a rainfall event in the past
watershed. The climate is inuenced by typhoons in summer and the three days with 33 mm of total rainfall. Thirty-four people were killed as a
northeast monsoon in winter. The mean monthly temperature is 27.5 C in result of the storm, including 15 died as a landslide buried a remote
July and 14.2 C in January, with the mean annual temperature of 21 C. The mountain village in the north. Based on the damage to properties and
annual precipitation averages 2370 mm. Because of typhoons, large human lives, Typhoon Aere was the worst typhoon that struck northern
rainfall events usually happen from May to September. As the upstream Taiwan in recent years.
area of the Shihmen Reservoir, the largest reservoir in northern Taiwan,
the Baichi watershed is frequently monitored and has more data available 3.2. Landslides triggered by Typhoon Aere
than other mountainous watersheds.
Landslides triggered by Typhoon Aere were interpreted by
3. Materials and methods comparing ortho-rectied aerial photographs taken before (August 6,
2004) and after (September 2, 2004) the typhoon. These color ortho-
3.1. Typhoon Aere photographs were compiled by the Aerial Survey Ofce of Taiwan's
Forestry Bureau from the stereo pairs of 1:5000 aerial photographs.
On August 2325, 2004, Typhoon Aere crossed the northern tip of They have a pixel size of 0.35 m and an estimated horizontal accuracy
Taiwan Island in an eastwest direction before turning southwestward. of 0.5 m.

Fig. 2. Landslide map of the Baichi watershed.

302 S.-H. Chiang, K.-T. Chang / Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309

Table 2 events can be effectively captured by radar records, even with the
Statistics of interpreted landslides (area unit: ha) interference due to ground clutter, beam blockage, and different-sized
n Area water droplets (e.g., Howard et al., 1997).
Total Max Min Mean S.D.
3.4. Gauged rainfall estimates
421 267.46 45.93 b 0.10 0.63 2.45

Rainfall measurements during Typhoon Aere were rst collected

Typhoon Aere triggered 421 new landslides. Most observed slope from six rain gauges in and around the study area. Then we used a spatial
failures were shallow landslides on soil mantled slopes with depth interpolation method to estimate the hourly rainfall distribution on a
less than 2 m. Fig. 2 shows the spatial distribution of these landslides, grid similar to that for radar rainfall. The interpolation methods we
and Table 2 summarizes their descriptive statistics. chose were IDW, splines, and ordinary kriging, three common methods
for estimating rainfall from gauged data (e.g., Wei et al., 2005). For
3.3. Radar rainfall estimates ordinary kriging, we used the spherical semi-variogram model, a
commonly-used model for precipitation, to t the observed data (e.g.,
The QPESUMS radar network consists of four Doppler radar stations. Lloyd, 2005). For each interpolation method, we derived the maximum
The survey radius for each station is 460 km; thus, the network covers the 24-h rainfall intensity from the hourly rainfall data.
entire Taiwan and its neighboring sea area. The distances from the study
area to the four Doppler radar stations are, respectively, 82 km to the north, 3.5. Critical rainfall model and input parameters
62 km to the southeast, 205 km to the southwest, and 209 km to the south.
The CWB provided radar reectivity data for August 2325, 2004, The critical rainfall model proposed by Montgomery and Dietrich
corresponding to the event of Typhoon Aere, for the study area. First, we (1994) has performed well in a variety of applications and study areas for
summed the 10-minute radar reectivity data by hour and divided the shallow landslide assessment (Dietrich et al., 1995; Pack et al., 1998; Iida,
sum by six for the hourly average. Then we projected the radar data onto 1999; Montgomery et al., 2000; Borga et al., 2002a,b; Claessens et al.,
a 12-by-20 grid with a spatial resolution of 1 km and converted the 2007a,b). The critical rainfall, Qcr [mm day 1], from the model can be
hourly average reectivity data into hourly rainfall data. The conversion computed by:
developed by the CWB uses a power relationship to transform radar    
b s sin C
reectivity into rainfall rate, followed by calibration using an IDW Qcr T sin 1 1
method and rain gauge measurements (Chang et al., 2008). The a w cos tan 
calibration is needed to correct radar rainfall bias (Krajewski and where T is saturated soil transmissivity [L2 T 1]; the local slope angle
Smith, 2002; Creutin and Borga, 2003). For this study, we collected []; a the upslope contributing drainage area [L2]; b the unit contour
rainfall measurements from six automatic rain gauges in and around the length (the grid resolution) [L]; s wet soil bulk density [g cm 1]; w
study area (Fig. 3) for radar rainfall calibration. Finally, we derived the the density of water [g cm 3]; the effective angle of internal friction
total rainfall, rainfall duration and maximum 24-h rainfall intensity for of soil []; and C the combined cohesion term [], made dimensionless
each 1-km cell from the hourly rainfall data. relative to perpendicular soil thickness and dened as:
Unlike local thunderstorms, typhoons are mesoscale atmospheric
phenomena having horizontal scales ranging from a few to several Cr Cs
C 2
hundred kilometers. Therefore, rainfall elds associated with typhoon Ds g

where Cr is root cohesion [N m 2], Cs soil cohesion [N m 2], D

perpendicular soil thickness [L], and g the gravitational acceleration
constant (9.81 m s 1). The spatial distribution of critical rainfall values
calculated according to Eq. (1) can be interpreted as an expression of
the relative potential for shallow landslide initiation.
With the boundary conditions used in deriving Eq. (1), the
conditions for upper and lower thresholds for possible slope failures
can be dened. Unconditionally stable areas are areas predicted to be
stable even when saturated and satisfy:
tan V 1 w tan  3
cos s
Unconditionally unstable areas are areas predicted to be unstable
even when dry and satisfy:
tan N tan  4
To compute the critical rainfall, three soil physical characteristics, s,
T and Cs, were measured in each lithological formation unit (Table 3). A

Table 3
Input parameters of the critical rainfall model

Lithological unit n s S.D. T S.D. S.D.

Aoti formation 6 1.79 0.18 89.5 14.5 35.7 4.6
Tatungshan formation 5 1.82 0.25 61.1 13.8 33.2 5.2
Kanko formation 3 1.72 0.10 75.4 16.1 32.5 7.5

n: sample size; s: soil bulk density [g cm 3]; T: transmissivity [m2 day 1]; : internal
Fig. 3. Location of rain gauges in and around the Baichi watershed. friction angle [].
S.-H. Chiang, K.-T. Chang / Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309 303

soil thickness of 1 m was used based on our eld observations of soil and the average slope of 34, the kinematic characteristic line to
thickness. To accommodate the spatial pattern of Cr, the NDVI (normal- propagate along the longest hillslope path (Borga et al., 2002b)
ized difference vegetation index) values retrieved from the 8-m developed by the subsurface ow in a period of 56.4 h (estimated by
FORMOSAT-2 satellite images taken on July 8, 2004 were used to radar records) is about 200 m. The line is long enough for every
estimate the spatial variation of root cohesion. To estimate the Cr value point along the hillslope to reach the subsurface drainage
for each cell, we applied a linear transformation to the full spectrum equilibrium and to experience drainage from its entire upslope
value of NDVI (1.01.0) by setting the minimum value at 0.0 kPa and the contributing area. The critical rainfall model can therefore be safely
range at 50.0 kPa (Huang et al., 2006). Finally, a 10 m digital elevation applied to the storm event in our study.
model (DEM) compiled from the stereo pairs of 1:5000 aerial
photographs was used to calculate the local slope angle and the upslope 3.6. Assessment of model performance
contributing drainage area.
The critical rainfall model embeds the steady-state wetness After the critical rainfall was calculated, unstable cells were
index (O'Loughlin, 1986), which has been widely applied in delineated in areas where the estimated rainfall was higher than the
hydrology. The steady-state assumption implies that the specic critical rainfall, and stable cells in areas where the estimated rainfall was
upslope area is a surrogate measure of the subsurface ow at any lower than the critical rainfall. To assess the accuracy of the model
point in the landscape. Can the steady-state assumption be applied performance, many previous studies have focused on the success rate or
to a storm event such as in our study? Given a transmissivity value SR (i.e., the rate of successfully predicted landslides), while ignoring the
of 61.1 m2 day 1, a soil thickness of 1 m, a soil porosity value of 0.4, component of stable areas. To have a balanced evaluation of the model

Fig. 4. Estimated 24-h rainfall intensity maps (mm day 1): a) IDW, b) splines, c) kriging, d) radar data.
304 S.-H. Chiang, K.-T. Chang / Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309

Table 4 predicts 90% of landslides and only 40% of stable cells, MSR of the model
Descriptive statistics of estimated maximum 24-h rainfall intensities from gauged and has a value of 0.65.
radar data (mm day 1)

Estimation method Max Min Mean S.D. 4. Result

IDW 685.8 200.2 514.1 102.8
Splines 697.5 175.2 519.5 141.2 4.1. Estimated rainfall distribution
Kriging 685.2 211.7 522.1 144.9
Radar data 697.2 188.6 409.3 99.5
Fig. 4 shows 24-h rainfall intensity maps estimated from the radar
data and gauged data. Table 4 lists the descriptive statistics for each
map. All maps show high rainfall intensities in the southwestern part
performance, this study not only looked at SR for predicted landslides but of the study area. The mean values from IDW, splines, and kriging are
also the modied success rate (MSR) dened as (Huang and Kao, 2006): all higher than 500 mm day 1. In contrast, radar rainfall has the lowest
MSR 0:5SRnumber for landslides 0:5SRcell for stable areas 5 mean (409.3 mm day 1) and standard deviation (99.5 mm day 1).
Fig. 5 shows the difference between each rainfall intensity map derived
where SRnumber is dened as the ratio of the number of successfully from gauged data and the radar-derived map. All cases show negative
predicted landslides to the total number of observed landslides, and differences (radar estimateN gauge estimate) in the west-central part of
SRcell as the ratio of the number of successfully predicted stable-area the watershed and positive differences (gauge estimateN radar estimate)
cells to the total number of observed stable-area cells. By having two in other parts. The difference values range from 100 to +50 mm day 1
equally weighted components, MSR considers the predictability of both within the watershed. Fig. 5 also summarizes the root mean square (RMS)
landslide sites and stable areas. For example, if a model successfully error for each difference map. The map for kriging has the lowest RMS

Fig. 5. Rainfall difference maps: a) IDW radar, b) splines radar, c) kriging radar. RMS is also indicated for each map.
S.-H. Chiang, K.-T. Chang / Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309 305

Fig. 6. Map of the critical rainfall for the Baichi watershed.

value (36.7), meaning that, overall, interpolated rainfall estimates from landslides but only 68% of stable areas. The model clearly over-
ordinary kriging are closest to radar rainfall estimates. predicted unstable areas within the watershed. In contrast, with the
rainfall input from radar data, the model correctly predicted 83% of
4.2. Distribution of critical rainfall landslides, a lower percentage than inputs from gauged data, but also
83% of stable areas, a much higher percentage than inputs from
Fig. 6 displays the distribution of critical rainfall (mm day 1) from gauged data. Thus, the model with the radar rainfall input gave the
the model, in which 64.3% of the total area is unconditionally stable, highest MSR value (Table 6), meaning that it has the best performance
and 6.0% is unconditionally unstable. Table 5 shows the relative when predictions of both unstable and stable areas are considered.
frequency of landslides by unconditionally unstable, critical rainfall
range, and unconditionally stable; 51.5% of landslides occurred in
unconditionally unstable cells and 24.7% in cells of the lowest critical
rainfall range (050 mm day 1). However, 6.4% of landslides occurred Table 5
Number of landslides, relative frequency (%), and areal percentage (%) by critical rainfall
in unconditionally stable cells. This incorrect prediction may indicate
an inherent bias of the critical rainfall model, which is covered in the
discussion section later. Critical rainfall Number of Relative Areal
(mm day 1) landslide frequency percentage

4.3. Model performance and comparison Uncon. unstable 217 51.5 6.0
050 104 24.7 3.9
50100 21 5.0 3.4
Fig. 7 shows potential landslide areas predicted by the model using 100150 15 3.6 3.2
different rainfall inputs. Table 6 compares the model outputs by SR 150200 11 2.6 2.8
and MSR. The SR values for predicted landslides indicate that the 200400 20 4.8 8.0
N400 6 1.4 8.4
model performs well with all rainfall inputs (N0.8). With the rainfall
Uncon. stable 27 6.4 64.3
input from either IDW or splines, the model correctly predicted 90% of
306 S.-H. Chiang, K.-T. Chang / Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309

5. Discussion stratiform storms (e.g., Kalinga and Gan, 2006). For estimating rainfall
from radar measurements in this study, we adopted the method
5.1. Efciency of radar estimation developed by Taiwan's CWB, a method proved to be robust in Chang
et al. (2006) and Chen et al. (2007). Chang et al. (2008) also found a strong
Previous studies have shown that radar rainfall estimates tend to be correlation between landslides triggered by Typhoon Aere and rainfall
underestimated compared to gauged data, especially the rainfall depth of rates derived from the QPESUMS in the Shihmen watershed. This study

Fig. 7. Maps of potential unstable and stable areas using rainfall inputs from: a) IDW, b) splines, c) kriging, d) radar.
S.-H. Chiang, K.-T. Chang / Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309 307

Table 6 Table 7
SR by unstable or stable area, and MSR Number of observed landslides, that of predicted landslides with SR, and that of
unpredicted landslide with error rate by radar rainfall category
Accuracy IDW Splines Kriging Radar
Unstable (SR) 0.910 0.907 0.881 0.834 Radar rainfall Number of Predicted landslidesb Unpredicted landslidesc
Stable (SR) 0.680 0.685 0.766 0.831 (mm day 1) observed
MSR 0.795 0.796 0.823 0.832 landsidesa
n SR (%) n Error rate (%)
b500 135 (32.1) 100 (28.5) 74.1 35 (50.0) 25.9
500550 111 (26.4) 97 (27.6) 87.4 14 (20.0) 12.6
conducted an independent test to verify that radar rainfall estimates 550600 82 (19.5) 78 (22.2) 95.1 4 (5.7) 0.05
were indeed better than interpolated estimates from gauging stations. 600650 54 (12.8) 43 (12.3) 79.6 11 (15.7) 20.4
Because all six rain gauges were used for rainfall interpolation, we N650 39 (9.3) 33 (9.4) 84.6 6 (8.6) 15.4
Total 421 351 83.4 70 16.6
performed an accuracy assessment of rainfall estimates by the
following procedure. We rst excluded one rain gauge from the b
Observed landslides are landslides delineated from aerial photographs.
Predicted landslides are landslides that are correctly predicted by using radar
radar rainfall calibration, and then computed the radar estimate as
rainfall estimates.
well as IDW, splines, and kriging estimates, for the considered rain c
Unpredicted landslides are landslides that are incorrectly predicted by using radar
gauge. After repeating the procedure for all rain gauges, pairs of rainfall estimates.
rainfall estimates versus gauged measures were obtained (Fig. 8).
These pairs were then used to compute the mean error (ME) and RMS.
As shown in Fig. 8, radar rainfall estimates are closest to gauged failures in these areas. This discussion highlights a shortcoming of the
measures and have the lowest ME and RMS. As noted, radar rainfall critical rainfall model because it does not explicitly consider the effect of
produces the highest MSR because it can curtail over-prediction of rainfall duration. How to incorporate transient rainfall data such as
unstable areas. These results suggest that radar rainfall is the best duration and hourly rainfall into a landslide model is therefore an
rainfall estimator to be used with the critical rainfall model, and is important topic for future studies.
useful for predicting landslides triggered by strong typhoons,
especially in mountainous watersheds, where rain gauges are sparsely 5.3. Potential inuence of the steady-state assumption
A deterministic innite slope stability model, when combined with
5.2. Effect of rainfall duration on landslide predictions a steady-state hydrological model, essentially relates the landslide
potential to steady-state subsurface water pressures in discrete cells. A
To better understand the potential underestimation of landslides by steady-state model ignores the slope-normal redistribution of the
radar rainfall, we examined landslides that were not correctly predicted near-surface water table associated with transient inltration and
and the rainfall intensities at their locations. Table 7 shows that 50% of lateral ow from rain recharge. As pointed out in the literature
unpredicted landslides are located in areas receiving rainfall intensities (Iverson, 2000; Morrissey et al., 2001, 2004), this neglect is predicated
less than 500 mm day 1. However, not only rainfall intensity but also more on expediency than physical evidence.
rainfall duration affects slope failures (Borga et al., 1998). A probability Because the calculation of steady-state soil moisture in the critical
model proposed by Chang et al. (2008) for the Shihmen watershed rainfall model is highly dominated by slope and specic area (a/b)
suggests that landslides can occur when the rainfall intensity is lower (Montgomery and Dietrich, 1994; Pack et al., 1998), we examined the
than 500 mm day 1 but the duration is longer then 57 h. Fig. 9 shows the inuence of these two topographic attributes on the predictability of
rainfall intensity and duration for those unpredicted landslides; almost landslides. Fig. 10 shows that unpredicted landslides tend to be located
half of them are located in areas with rainfall durations ranging from 57.5 in areas with relatively gentle slopes or smaller specic areas. This
to 58.5 h. Conceivably, longer rainfall durations contributed to slope trend is most apparent for those unpredicted landslides in uncondi-
tionally stable areas. In other words, the critical rainfall model is
inherently unable to predict landslides on gentle slopes or slopes with
small specic areas. Under the steady-state condition, the simulated
water table is closest to the ground surface in the furthest downslope

Fig. 8. Comparisons between rainfall estimates (radar, IDW, splines, and kriging) and Fig. 9. Plot of the rainfall intensityduration relation for unpredicted landslides using
gauged measures with mean error (ME) and root mean squared (RMS) error. radar rainfall input.
308 S.-H. Chiang, K.-T. Chang / Geomorphology 103 (2009) 299309

Fig. 10. Slope and log of specic area (a/b) by predicted landslide, unpredicted landslide, and unpredicted landslide on unconditionally stable area dened by the critical rainfall
model. Specic area is dened as the upslope contributing area (a) divided by the grid resolution (b).

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